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Federal judge blocks transfer of American detainee to Iraqi custody

[JURIST] US District Judge Ricardo Urbina [official profile] on Monday issued a preliminary injunction [PDF text; opinion, PDF] preventing the US military from turning over US citizen and suspected terrorist Shawqi Omar [JURIST report] to Iraqi officials. Omar, who the US describes as a close associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [BBC profile], was arrested in Baghdad in October 2004 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. Urbina is currently deciding whether Omar's case should be heard by a US judge or whether Omar can be turned over to Iraqi officials for prosecution.

According to US officials, Iraqi courts are considering pressing charges against Omar, which would make him the first US citizen to be tried under the new Iraqi legal system. The Department of Justice has argued that Omar is not in US custody, but is instead in the custody of the Multi-National Force [official website] and beyond the federal court's jurisdiction. The Brennan Center for Justice, representing Omar's wife and son in the case, has a press release on Urbina's decision. AP has more.

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