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US judge blocks deportation of Egyptian detainee despite 'no torture' pledge

[JURIST] A US district judge ruled [opinion, PDF; ACLU press release] Thursday that the US cannot deport an Egyptian Christian who fled to the United States in 1998 to reportedly escape religious persecution because of the risk that he may face torture in Egypt [JURIST news archive]. US District Judge Thomas Vanaskie of the Middle District of Pennsylvania rejected government arguments that it had received diplomatic assurances from Egypt that it would not torture Sameh Khouzam [ACLU materials; advocacy website], finding that the government had ignored any outside review of the reliability of Egypt's assurances. The government immediately appealed and was granted a five-day stay; a federal appeals court will now hear the case. Reuters has more.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers representing Khouzam had argued [press release; JURIST report] that the US government was not honoring its obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture [text] by relying on assurances from the Egyptian government that Khouzam will not be tortured if he is returned to authorities in Egypt [JURIST news archive]. Khouzam originally came to the United States seeking asylum, but was detained by US authorities based on claims by Egyptian authorities that he is a murder suspect in his home country. Khouzam's case marks the first time a US court has addressed whether the government can lawfully rely on assurances from foreign governments to deport detainees to countries with a record of engaging in torture.

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