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DC Circuit blocks transfer of US terror suspect to Iraqi courts

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled unanimously [opinion, PDF] Friday that US citizen and suspected terrorist Shawqi Omar [JURIST news archive] has a right to argue his case before a US court. In a simultaneous 2-1 decision, the court upheld last year’s District Court injunction [JURIST report] blocking the Pentagon from turning him over to be tried in Iraqi courts. The judges rejected the US contention that, although it has custody of Omar, US court jurisdiction is precluded because the forces are part of a multinational effort. Judge Janice Rodgers Brown, who dissented on the issue of upholding last year’s injunction, said Omar could remain in US custody while being tried by the Iraqi courts, so that both trials could run concurrently. The Brennan Center for Justice [advocacy website], who filed a habeas corpus petition on Omar’s behalf in December 2005, hailed the decision as a landmark ruling [press release] that US citizens cannot be detained without judicial review.

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 illegally in Iraq. Omar’s family says he is an innocent businessman who was seeking reconstruction contracts in Iraq, and will likely be tortured if removed from US custody. AP has more.

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