By Kirsty Needham
SYDNEY (Reuters) -The lawyer for a former U.S. military pilot arrested in Australia and facing possible extradition to the United States said his client was wrongly classified as an "extreme high risk" prisoner, and he had asked the attorney-general to release him.
Former U.S. Marines pilot Daniel Edmund Duggan was arrested in New South Wales in October at the request of the U.S. government, the same week Britain announced a crackdown on its former military pilots working to train Chinese military fliers.
The United States must lodge an extradition request for Duggan by Dec. 20 under a bilateral treaty, a Sydney court was told on Monday. The case was adjourned until December 16.
Duggan's lawyer, Dennis Miralis, said Duggan was classified by the prison system as "extreme high risk" and was denied access pens or stationery; he had also been refused medical treatment.
"This is unprecedented to have an Australian citizen placed on the most strict inmate restrictions, akin with people who have been convicted of terrorist offences and multiple homicides, in circumstances where he has never been in trouble with police," Miralis told reporters outside court.
Duggan, who denies breaching any law, is an Australian citizen and had renounced his U.S. citizenship, he said. Details of the arrest warrant and the charges he faces in the U.S. are sealed.
Reuters previously reported that Duggan moved from Australia to China in 2014 to work as an aviation consultant, and shared a Beijing address with Chinese businessman Su Bin, who was jailed in the United States in 2016 in a high-profile hacking case involving the theft of U.S. military aircraft designs.
Duggan and Su Bin had also worked a decade ago for a South African flight school that is now under scrutiny by British authorities for training Chinese military pilots, Reuters reported.
Miralis said on Monday he had no details of why the United States was seeking the extradition of his client.
"Trying to speculate how the case against Mr Duggan might be ultimately construed or framed is unprofitable because we simply don't have the facts," he told reporters.
He had written to the Attorney General seeking Duggan's release, and also lodged a complaint with the inspector general of the intelligence services over "the way in which Australian national security agencies have behaved in relation to Mr Duggan", he told the court.
The Australian government's lawyer, Trent Glover, told the court this was "an ordinary, usual extradition process where we are awaiting receipt of an extradition request".
Duggan's classification while in custody had no connection to his extradition, he added.
Corrective Services NSW, which runs prisons, said it didn't comment publicly on inmate classifications.
The Attorney-General's spokesman told Reuters it was "not appropriate to comment on Mr Duggan's extradition proceedings, given this matter is currently before the courts".
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)