A Bowling Green man facing federal terrorism charges after allegedly traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq is challenging the criminal case against him, asserting in court filings that the U.S. government cannot prosecute him for crimes for which Turkish authorities have already convicted him.
Mirsad Ramic, 33, is under indictment in the U.S. on charges of providing material support and resources to ISIS, conspiring to provide material support to ISIS and receiving military-type training from ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Prosecutors accuse Ramic, a Bosnian national and naturalized American citizen, of traveling to Turkey in 2014 with two Saudi Arabian nationals who had attended Western Kentucky University, then buying plane tickets to a Turkish border city and making their way from their into Syria to join ISIS.
In a previous court hearing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky produced pictures that they say show Ramic in camouflage uniform standing in front of a truck equipped with an anti-aircraft gun and displaying a black flag indicating support for ISIS.
Ramic’s attorney, federal public defender Scott Wendelsdorf, asserts that the prosecution against Ramic cannot proceed because it violates federal law against double jeopardy.
In a motion filed in January, Wendelsdorf argues that Ramic’s conviction in a Turkish court in 2015 on terror-related charges and his subsequent imprisonment there were based on the same conduct that formed the basis for the criminal charges against him in the U.S.
“In short, Turkey prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned (Ramic) for his actions in going to Syria and joining and participating in the activities of ISIL while in Syria,” Wendelsdorf said in his motion. “Now, the United States seeks to do exactly the same thing for exactly the same reason.
A response filed March 6 by prosecutor Daniel Gardner, a trial attorney with the National Security Division of the federal Department of Justice, counters that Ramic’s case does not violate federal laws against prosecuting a defendant more than once for the same crimes.
Gardner argues that the double jeopardy standard does not apply to criminal prosecutions brought by separate sovereign nations, particularly when a foreign government brings the initial prosecution, as has happened in this case.
“As a sovereign nation, the United States has the unquestionable right to vindicate its own interests stemming from overseas criminal conduct over which it has jurisdiction ... more importantly, no foreign government – and certainly not the defendant – can determine whether the United States should be allowed to exercise its sovereignty and vindicate those interests or whether those interests merit a successive prosecution,” Gardner wrote in his response.
A ruling on the motion to dismiss is pending, along with a separate motion appealing U.S. Magistrate Judge Brent Brennenstuhl’s earlier ruling denying bond for Ramic, who has been jailed since being brought to the U.S. in 2021 from Turkey.
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.