U.S. Citizen Tried Behind Closed Doors in U.A.E.

July 20, 2009

U.S. Officials Silent

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A U.S. citizen standing trial on vague terrorism-related charges was denied an open proceeding today when a United Arab Emirates judge closed the courtroom to international observers and the media. The move raises further questions about whether Naji Hamdan, who has been imprisoned for 11 months in the U. A.E. and has been charged based on evidence obtained from him through torture, will receive a fair trial.

"Naji Hamdan's life is in peril, and we're fearful that this secretive trial will not result in a fair hearing of facts in his case," said Jennie Pasquarella, an ACLU/SC staff attorney who was among those denied entry into the courtroom in Abu Dhabi.

Based on his credible accounts, the ACLU/SC believes that Hamdan was arrested and detained at the direction of the U.S. government. His trial represents a test for the Obama administration"s willingness to end Bush-era proxy detentions – the detention of U.S. citizens by foreign governments at the direction of American officials.

"We've asked the United States to use its influence to get Hamdan out of prison in the U.A.E., or at least ensure that evidence obtained through torture is not used against him in trial," Pasquarella said. "Sadly, we have heard nothing in reply as the U.A.E. proceeds with its case against him."

Last year the ACLU/SC filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the federal government to reveal its role in the detention, torture and prosecution of Hamdan. The lawsuit remains pending.

The ACLU/SC also sent a petition bearing more than 1,000 signatures to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to intervene on Hamdan's behalf to ensure that evidence obtained through torture is not used against him. So far, Clinton and other Obama administration officials have been silent on Hamdan's detention.

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