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Federal judge asked to intervene in case of American detained in Iraq

[JURIST] Lawyers for naturalized American citizen Shawqi Ahmad Omar, who has been detained in Iraq for over a year, have asked a federal judge to intervene in the case and prevent Omar's transfer to Iraqi custody. US Justice Department officials say that Omar, who they believe is a close associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [BBC profile], was arrested after he was caught harboring an Iraqi insurgent and a group of foreign fighters who were in Iraq illegally with the intention of fighting US forces. The DOJ says Omar may be guilty of war crimes but his lawyers insist that he is just a businessman who was in Iraq seeking construction contracts.

Omar's defense lawyers have asserted that the federal court has jurisdiction over the case because he is in US military custody and have asked US District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina [official profile] to review his detention, which they say violates his rights as a US citizen. The DOJ, however, says that Omar is in the custody of the Multi-National Force [official website] and beyond the court's jurisdiction. Last week, Urbina temporarily blocked [Washington Post report; petitioner's brief, PDF] the US government from transferring Omar to the custody of the Iraqi government. Wednesday's New York Times has more.

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