Former fighter pilot imprisoned in NSW on US extradition request unable to attend mother’s funeral
Daniel Duggan, the Australian pilot fighting an extradition request from the US from prison, will not be able to attend his mother’s funeral, after she died in the US.
Duggan’s 95-year-old mother, Anne, suffered a stroke earlier this week, and died overnight Wednesday in Boston.
Duggan, currently held in segregation in Lithgow prison, was only able to speak to his mother once briefly after she fell ill, when a family member held a phone to her ear.
“Dan is devastated that he is locked in solitary confinement in Lithgow prison and not with his family when his mother fell ill and died,’’ Duggan’s wife, Saffrine Duggan, said.
“He is at a loss to understand the motivations of the people who are pursuing him, they do not understand that they’re ripping our family apart with psychological torture and mental anguish.
“Dan is inconsolable that he will not be able to attend his mother’s funeral and be with his family in the US.”
Duggan, 54, a former US marine pilot who is now a naturalised Australian, was arrested last October at the request of the US government, which is seeking his extradition on charges of arms trafficking and money laundering, arising from his alleged training of Chinese fighter pilots more than a decade ago. The allegations have not been tested in court.
Duggan, who has no criminal history anywhere in the world, has faced extreme isolation in prison, having been classified as a high-risk prisoner. He denies the charges and is fighting his extradition from prison, a process that could take months, even years, to resolve.
Related: Legal team fears pilot Daniel Duggan cannot be assured of fair trial in US amid China tensions
Duggan’s legal team has maintained the US extradition request is politically motivated, catalysed by the US’s deepening geopolitical contest with China.
He faces a potential 60-year prison term if convicted in the US.
Duggan is the father of six Australian citizen children, aged between six and 18.
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“All Dan’s kids have met and love Grandma Duggan, who always remembered their birthdays,” Saffrine Duggan said. “They have had Thanksgiving together previously. He would so very much love to be here to hug and comfort his kids at this extremely sad time for our family.”
Anne Duggan was mother to 13 children, of whom Daniel was the youngest. Duggan remembered her as “a strong, loving woman and the matriarch of the family”. Nine of her children were at her bedside when she died.
Duggan has been imprisoned – including significant periods in solitary confinement – since his arrest in October last year.
“Our family continues to urge the New South Wales government to remove Dan from the inhumane conditions of … maximum security prison where he is being held in direct contravention of United Nations treaties,” Saffrine Duggan said.
“We urge premier Dominic Perrottet – or whomever wins government at the weekend election – to release Dan into home detention so he can be with his family while he fights the baseless charges brought against him by the US government.”
Related: Daniel Duggan says he faces ‘gross injustice’ if extradited to US in speech from Sydney prison
US-born Duggan served more than a decade flying in the US Marine Corps, rising to the rank of major and working as a military tactical flight instructor.
He left the marines in 2002 and moved to Australia, becoming an Australian citizen in 2012 and renouncing his US citizenship in 2017. He has lived in Australia and China since leaving the marines.
A 2017 US grand jury indictment alleges Duggan trained Chinese fighter pilots to land fighter jets on aircraft carriers, in defiance of arms trafficking laws and engaged in a conspiracy to launder money.
The indictment details payments Duggan allegedly received in 2011 and 2012 for his work training Chinese fighter pilots at a test flight academy “based in South Africa, with a presence in the People’s Republic of China”.
He strenuously rejects the charges against him as being politically motivated and says the indictment against him is filled with “half-truths, falsehoods and gross embellishments”.
Duggan’s family has also said the cost of fighting a legal battle against the resources of the US government – likely more than $1m – has put the family in severe financial distress. The family is unable to access legal aid under extradition process rules, and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help cover legal expenses.
• This article was updated on 23 March. A previous version incorrectly referred to Lismore rather than Lithgow prison.