THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch court has taken the unusual step of asking U.S. authorities for more information about the case of a Somali man wanted in Minneapolis for allegedly aiding an Islamist terror group, his lawyer said Tuesday.Mohamud Said Omar, 44, is fighting his extradition from the Netherlands to the United States for allegedly providing money to the Somali group al-Shabab that was used to buy guns.
Omar's lawyer Bart Stapert said the ruling, issued in writing by Rotterdam District Court on Monday, threw into doubt whether Omar will ever be extradited.
"I am very happy the court took such a principled approach and basically forced the U.S. government to come up with additional information," he said. Stapert said it was rare for a Dutch court to seek extra clarification in such an extradition case.
The three-judge panel asked the U.S. to provide more information on the country's definition of a terror group, the maximum sentence Omar faces and whether the U.S. viewed al-Shabab as a terrorist organization before March 2008.
It scheduled a hearing for May 17 to discuss the responses.
The U.S. State Department considers al-Shabab a terror group with links to al-Qaida.
But Stapert argues that at the time Omar is accused of links to the group, al-Shabab was fighting a "legitimate struggle against Ethiopians" who were brought in by Somalia's weak U.N.-backed government in late 2006 to oust an Islamic group that had controlled southern Somalia and the capital for six months.
The Ethiopians pulled out of the country in early 2009.
Around 20 youths of Somali descent are believed to have traveled to Somalia from Minnesota since 2007 to help al-Shabab.
Omar's lawyers say he never intended to help terrorists.
Omar has been held in a high-security Dutch prison since his arrest at the request of the U.S. government in November. He has residency in the U.S. but had been living in a center for would-be asylum seekers in the Netherlands since December 2008, apparently before he was a suspect.
A total of 14 people have been charged in an ongoing U.S. federal investigation into the travels of as many as 20 young men who went to Somalia to fight starting in 2007. They face a variety of accusations, from recruiting and raising funds for the trips, to engaging in terrorist acts in Somalia and perjury.
The U.S. Embassy in The Hague did not immediately return a call seeking comment.