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Habeas denial creates blank check for executive imprisonment

Jonathan Hafetz [Associate Counsel Brennan Center, attorney for Mohammed Munaf]: "On October 19, 2006, the district court (Lamberth, J.) dismissed the habeas petition of Mohammed Munaf, the American citizen detained in Iraq by the United States and sentenced to death by an Iraqi criminal court on October 12, 2006. The district court ruled in Mohammed v. Harvey that it lacked jurisdiction because the United States was acting as part of a multinational force when it arrested and imprisoned Munaf. It also denied as moot Munaf's request for an order temporarily enjoining his transfer to Iraq to face execution in order to hear his habeas petition.

The decision is unprecedented and unjustified, flouting more than a half-century of Supreme Court precedent establishing that U.S. citizens detained overseas have a constitutional right to challenge their detention by the United States as well as their transfer to a foreign sovereign. In this case, Munaf was tortured while in U.S. custody and was subjected to a trial in Iraq that lacked fundamental due process and that was pervaded by significant American involvement, if not manipulation. More is at stake than the life of an American citizen. The decision threatens to create a blank check for executive imprisonment wherever the United States claims it is holding an American citizen under the guise of a multinational operation."

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