Man charged with spying for Saddam denied bail

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- A Canadian citizen suspected of spying for his native Iraq during Saddam Hussein's regime was refused bail Tuesday amid concerns he would return to Canada and be out of U.S. reach.

A federal judge ordered Mouyad Mahmoud Darwish, 47, transferred to Maryland to face a charge of conspiracy to act as an agent for a foreign government.

Darwish was arrested Dec. 24 while entering the United States at Buffalo. The Justice Department filed a criminal complaint Monday in Maryland alleging that Darwish provided secrets to Iraqi government officials and intelligence officers.

Prosecutors said documents seized by U.S. troops following the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 establish that Darwish was paid by the Iraqi Intelligence Service for "assistance." One of the documents, dated Aug. 6, 2002, indicates Darwish provided information that Iraqi volunteers were being trained by the U.S. military in Virginia and getting $2,000 a month.

In conversations recorded by the FBI in 2003 and 2004, Darwish is heard telling co-conspirators about activities by the Iraqi ambassador and other Iraqi officials associated with the interim government after Saddam's regime fell, according to an FBI agent's affidavit.

At that time, Darwish was a restaurant cook and a driver and part-time accounting assistant at the Iraqi embassy.

Darwish is among at least a dozen people charged by the Justice Department since the 2003 invasion with acting as illegal agents for Saddam's government or his intelligence service, federal authorities said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Brown argued against releasing Darwish on bail because of a provision in the law which he said would prevent Darwish's extradition from Canada if he were to go home and ignore the U.S. charge. Brown said the charge Darwish faces in the United States would not qualify for extradition because Canada has no similar count.

Public Defender Kimberly Schechter said Darwish, who lives in Markham, Ontario, near Toronto, was traveling with his wife and three children on Christmas Eve to visit his cancer-stricken father and other family in Maryland.

"There is no indication whatsoever that my client was avoiding detection" at the border, said Schechter. She said Darwish recently bought a house in Canada, and the prosecutor said Darwish works at Home Depot full time and has a part-time job removing carpeting.

In arguing for a $20,000 bail, Schechter said Darwish had been questioned by the FBI in May 2003 but was not charged.

He continued to live in the United States until 2006, when his application was rejected and he voluntarily moved to Canada, she said.

Darwish faces up to five years in prison if convicted.