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ACLU files lawsuit over US citizen detention in UAE

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Wednesday filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] against a number of federal agencies, including the Department of Justice (DOJ), State Department (DOS), FBI and CIA, seeking information related to the detention of US citizen Naji Hamdan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2008. The suit was filed after the agencies failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [5 USC § 552] request for documentation related to his detention in the UAE. Hamdan contends that the US government was involved in his detention and torture by UAE officials, and his FOIA request sought information related to why he was detained and tortured. He maintains that the US government was involved in his torture, which included beatings and long periods of exposure to cold temperatures, because his interrogators asked him about subjects to which only the FBI would have had access. Hamdan also asserts that the US was involved in his torture because he was questioned by a person speaking only American English and wearing western clothing. The ACLU filed a FOIA request for access to the information in January 2009, and, after receiving no reply by any of the government agencies contacted, decided to proceed with the lawsuit. The US has never filed any charges against Hamdan.

Last October, the Federal Supreme Court of the UAE convicted Hamdan of engaging in terrorist activities [JURIST report] and sentenced him to 18 months in prison. Hamdan was released shortly after his conviction due to serving 14 months prior to his trial. He faced three separate charges of terrorism, including providing financial support for attacks against Israel and being connected to al Qaeda in Iraq. Although he confessed to engaging in terrorist activities, Hamdan consistently denied the charges, claiming his confessions were coerced through torture. The ACLU suspected the US government of pushing the case onto UAE officials because it did not have enough evidence to charge Hamdan. The ACLU asked for the US government to intervene [press release], but the request was denied in August 2009.

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