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Federal judge refuses to block transfer of US detainee to Iraqi custody

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Monday denied [opinion, PDF] the habeas corpus petition of suspected terrorist and US citizen Shawqi Omar [JURIST news archive], allowing him to be transferred to Iraqi custody. Omar, detained by the US military in Iraq, had filed the petition arguing that the transfer would violate laws against transferring detainees to countries where they might be tortured. Judge Ricardo Urbina rejected that argument, relying on an April decision from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website], which held [JURIST report] that US courts could not prevent the government from transferring Uighur detainees held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] to foreign countries on the grounds that detainees may face persecution or torture in the foreign country. Despite his ruling, Urbina expressed concern that petitioners fearing torture in other countries apparently have no redress in the court system.

Omar filed the habeas petition last year after the US Supreme Court [official website] rejected [JURIST report] an earlier appeal. Omar, whom the US describes as a close associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], 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 that he will likely be tortured if removed from US custody.

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