SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For months, attorneys for Omar Abdulsattar Ameen, the Iraqi national living in Sacramento as a refugee and accused of killing a police officer in Iraq on behalf of ISIS in June 2014, have maintained their client's innocence, arguing he was in Turkey at the time of the murder.
On Tuesday, Ameen's lawyers filed more 500 pages of documents in support of that theory, saying there is "no possible way" their client murdered the Iraqi police officer because he never left Turkey between April 1, 2012, and November 4, 2014.
Federal law enforcement agents arrested Ameen in August 2018 at his Arden-Arcade apartment on behalf of the Government of Iraq, which court documents say, requested his extradition from the United States to stand trial for an alleged murder he committed as a member of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.
Iraqi officials say Ameen was part of a group of ISIS fighters who showed up at the home of Officer Ihsan Abdulhafiz Jasim on the night of June 22, 2014, and opened fire. According to court documents, a person who claims to have witnessed the killing saw Ameen approach Ihsan—who was wounded when he returned fire—and shoot him while he was lying on the ground.
The documents filed on Tuesday, which include bank records, cell phone records, immigration office sign-in sheets, social media postings, and a number of statements from friends and relatives, all "present 'reasonably clear-cut proof,'" Ameen's attorneys argue, of their client's presence in Turkey before, during, and after the murder.
In their extradition hearing brief, the defense team details the extraordinary lengths a person would have to go through to travel from Mersin, Turkey, where Ameen was living, to Rawa, Iraq, his hometown and the site of the killing, in June 2014. The two towns are at least 600 miles apart, and, because of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the trip "would have taken several weeks," Ameen's childhood friend told defense attorneys.
"One would have to be a superhero to make this journey," another man who knew Ameen is quoted as saying in court documents.
The defense also submitted Turkish immigration office sign-in sheets as evidence of Ameen's innocence.
In April 2012, Ameen arrived in Turkey with his family and was granted international protection. Under Turkish law, court documents say, Ameen had to provide his signature in-person at the local immigration office to keep his application open for possible resettlement in a third country.
"As the date of the offense was a Sunday, there is no signature on that date," court documents state, but "Ameen signed in on June 19, 2014, and June 26, 2014," meaning he would have had three days to travel 600 miles to Iraq, and four days to make it back to Turkey in time to sign-in again.
Several friends of Ameen who also lived in Mersin gave sworn statements that he was Turkey in late June 2014, according to court documents.
"The joy of representing an innocent client is that reality is consistent with the client's innocence," Ameen's attorneys concluded in their brief. "This means that dogged investigation will disclose evidence that helps establish that reality in court."
Ameen's extradition hearing is scheduled for May 28. He remains incarcerated and separated from the general population in the Sacramento County Jail.
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Gonzalo Magaña, Josh Lyle, and Eric Escalante contributed to the report.