The former US marine pilot at the centre of claims military aviators had been training the Chinese is under “extraordinary pressure” in custody, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Dennis Miralis argued his client, Daniel Edmund Duggan, had been unfairly singled out for political gain and was innocent.
It came on the day it was confirmed that Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus had approved a request from Washington to extradite the now-Australian citizen.
Duggan, who formerly operated the adventure flight business Top Gun Australia, still has multiple avenues to appeal, including to the Federal and High courts.
“We will continue to maintain vigorous lines of communication with the Attorney-General,” Miralis said outside Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court.
“Mr Duggan is presumed to be innocent under US law.
“[He] has expressed his grave concern about the ongoing impact this will have on his family and particularly his six children.”
Miralis added that Duggan is being held in the Silverwater jail in NSW, in a segregated area alongside terrorists. The matter is due before court again on 13 February.
While the 54-year-old’s charges remain sealed, his arrest on October 21 in Orange came at the same time as reports emerged that ex-British and Australian pilots were instructing their Chinese counterparts.
Defence Minister Richard Marles pledged an investigation into the alleged practise, and shortly afterwards told journalists that “enough evidence” had emerged to warrant a review of current laws.
However, Marles crucially refused to say whether the involvement of any Australians had been confirmed.
“The information provided to me so far presents enough evidence to warrant the need for a detailed examination into the adequacy of current Defence policies and procedures addressing this matter,” Minister Marles said in a statement.
He added former personnel had an “enduring obligation” to protect national secrets, and changes to the law would be made if “weaknesses” were found.
“I want to make this point. For those who do come into possession of our nation’s secrets, either through service in the Australian Defence Force or, indeed, service in any other part of the Commonwealth, there is an enduring obligation to maintain those secrets for as long as they are secrets, which persists well after their engagement with the Commonwealth, and to breach that obligation is a very serious crime.
“And that is clear and unambiguous.”
However, Miralis said in November, “In 22 years of practising criminal law with a specialisation in extradition, I have yet to see something as remarkable as this.
“We’ve been told the Australian Federal Police do not regard him as a risk. We’ve been told the Attorney-General’s department do not regard him as a risk.
“We are concerned that there may have been some foreign interference encouraging the corrective services minister to take this dramatic course of action.”
He added his client was a “proud Australian” who no longer holds US citizenship, adding that Duggan had been denied medical treatment.
Barrister Trent Glover, representing the US, said in response this was the “ordinary, usual extradition process”.