Filipino doctor accused of wiring money to would-be terrorists in US fighting extradition in court

Agents of National Bureau of Investigation escort Filipino doctor Russell Salic during an extradition court hearing in Manila on Nov 7, 2017.
Agents of National Bureau of Investigation escort Filipino doctor Russell Salic during an extradition court hearing in Manila on Nov 7, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (AFP) - A Filipino doctor accused of wiring money for a foiled New York terrorist plot appeared in a Manila court on Tuesday (Nov 7) to fight extradition to the US, saying the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group hacked his social media accounts.

Russell Salic and two others have been charged with involvement in the plan to stage attacks targeting New York's subway, Times Square and concert venues in the name of ISIS during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2016.

Salic, a 37-year-old orthopaedic surgeon, appeared on the first day of the hearing in Manila to extradite him to the United States. In a written deposition, Salic said ISIS and its sympathisers gained control of his online accounts after he "condemned" the group in 2015.

"This group was able to 'HACK' my FB (Facebook) account and my email address account," he said in the signed statement his lawyer submitted to the court last month and obtained by AFP on Tuesday.

US authorities and the Philippine military have accused Salic of posting pro-ISIS content online and sending money to other countries in support of the Islamists.

Salic is accused of transferring US$423 (S$577.19) in May 2016 to the other suspects as part of the thwarted operation, which was planned through Internet messaging, according to the US Justice Department.

The bombing plot was monitored by an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent posing as a fellow extremist, US authorities said.

The US Justice Department said Salic told the FBI agent through a messaging application: "It would be a great pleasure if we can slaughter" people in New York.

Salic, who was led out of the court in handcuffs on Tuesday, said in his deposition that he had given money to international groups helping war victims and clubfoot patients as well as an unspecified organisation in Malaysia aiding the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar.

"I got into trouble because of my desire to help needy people, not terrorist(s). Modesty aside, I am by nature a good man," his statement said.

Asked by reporters on Tuesday why his name had come up in the US investigation, he said: "Because I donated to charity."

Mr Christopher Cardani, the US Justice Department attache in Manila, said Washington was working with local authorities to have Salic extradited "as soon as possible".

"We look forward to giving him that day, that he will be given an opportunity to state his case before an American jury. This is an extremely important matter to the United States," Mr Cardani told reporters.