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Appeals court blocks US handover of American to Iraqis before high court ruling

[JURIST] The US DC Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] ruled Friday that Iraqi-American Mohammed Munaf had to be given ten days to appeal his case to the US Supreme Court and then the high court had to be accorded time to rule on that before the US military can legally transfer him to Iraqi custody and likely execution. In early October, an Iraqi judge sentenced Munaf to death for his alleged role [JURIST report] in the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in 2005. Munaf, who is married to a Romanian woman, was born in Iraq but became a US citizen in 2000.

On October 13 lawyers for Munaf filed an emergency motion [PDF text; declaration, PDF] in federal court to prevent the military from transferring him [JURIST report] to Iraqi authorities. Munaf claims his confession was coerced, authorities did not confront him with the evidence brought against him, and he was not allowed to present his own exculpatory evidence. Ordinarily, these allegations, if proven, would be sufficient for American courts to intervene on Munaf's behalf. US District Judge Royce Lamberth [official profile] ruled October 19 that the federal courts had no power to intervene [opinion] in the case because Munaf was in Coalition, not American, custody. Jonathan Hafertz, counsel for Munaf, told JURIST Hotline afterwards that:

The decision is unprecedented and unjustified, flouting more than a half-century of Supreme Court precedent establishing that US citizens detained overseas have a constitutional right to challenge their detention by the United States as well as their transfer to a foreign sovereign....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.
AP has more.

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