CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A former United States military pilot’s Sydney extradition hearing on U.S. charges, including that he illegally trained Chinese aviators, was postponed Tuesday while authorities investigate the role of an Australian spy agency in his arrest.
Boston-born Dan Duggan, 54, was arrested by Australian police in October near his home, in Orange, New South Wales, and has been fighting extradition to the United States. The former U.S. Marine Corps major and flying instructor maintains he has done nothing wrong and is an innocent victim of a worsening power struggle between Washington and Beijing.
“This is a signal, signal sending. It has nothing to do with me personally,” Duggan told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in a telephone call from maximum-security prison.
“It’s more to do with the signal that they want to send in a geopolitical sense,” he added in an interview broadcast on Monday.
His lawyers successfully applied Tuesday in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court for the extradition hearing to be delayed until Nov. 24 while they await findings about their allegation that Duggan, now an Australian citizen, was illegally lured from China back to Australia in 2022 to be arrested.
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Christopher Jessup, the regulator of Australia’s six spy agencies, announced in March that he was investigating Duggan’s allegation that the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, known as ASIO, was part of a U.S. ploy to extradite him.
Duggan returned from China to work in Australia after he received an ASIO security clearance for an aviation license. A few days after his arrival, the ASIO clearance was removed, which his lawyers argue made the job opportunity an illegal lure to a U.S. extradition partner country. They expect Jessup’s findings will provide grounds to oppose extradition and apply for his release from prison on bail before the extradition question is resolved.
Duggan’s grounds for resisting extradition include his claim that the prosecution is political and that the crime he is accused of does not exist under Australian law. The extradition treaty between the two countries that has existed since 1976 requires that a suspect can only be extradited for an allegation that is recognized by both countries as a crime.
The Australian government is reviewing laws to ensure former military personnel cannot sell their expertise to the Chinese military.
Saffrine Duggan, Duggan’s wife and mother of their six children, addressed more than 20 supporters who protested outside the court for his release.
“I would never have thought this could ever happen in Australia, let alone to our family,” she said. “My family is brave and strong and so are our friends and so is my husband, but we are all terribly torn apart.”
She complained in February that Australia was holding her husband in inhumane conditions.
Dan Duggan said the Chinese pilots he trained while he was contracted by flying school Test Flying Academy of South Africa in 2011 and 2012 — the period covered by the charges — were civilians, and nothing he taught was classified.
His lawyer, Bernard Collaery, said the Australian and Chinese navies were involved in joint training exercises around the time Duggan was accused of “consorting with the enemy.”
“It’s a double standard, it’s hypocrisy,” Collaery said.
“If Australia does extradite him, we’re liable to see him become a pawn in this China game. It is very worrying,” the lawyer added.