Innocent Civilian Held in Iraq Released Days After ACLU Files Lawsuit

September 6, 2005 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


Michigan Refugee From Saddam’s Regime Freed from U.S. Military Custody

LOS ANGELES — The American Civil Liberties Union today celebrated the release of a long-time U.S. resident who was being held in Iraq by the U.S. military. The release came less than a week after the ACLU filed a lawsuit against top U.S. officials, almost two months after a military court declared Numan Adnan Al Kaby innocent and just two days before a judge was to hear his case in Washington.

Numan Adnan Al Kaby, a long-term legal resident of the U.S. returned to Iraq to reunite with his family. He was arrested by the U.S. military in April and declared innocent by a military court but still remained in custody.

“A federal judge set a hearing and the government was going to have to defend the indefensible, which explains the timing of Mr. Al Kaby’s release,” said Mark Rosenbaum, Legal Director of the ACLU of Southern California. “It is absolutely chilling that more than two months after Mr. Al Kaby was cleared by our government it took a federal lawsuit against the president to secure an innocent man’s release.”

Al Kaby, a long-term legal resident of the United States who escaped the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War, returned to Iraq after Hussein’s capture to reunite with his family and found a job aiding an American contractor. Al Kaby, who is an applicant for U.S. citizenship and a Shiite originally from Iraq, was arrested by the U.S. military in April and declared innocent by a military court July 4, but still remained in custody without contact with his family or access to a lawyer. He was originally arrested after calling in sick the same day his construction site received mortar fire, but the military court determined he was not involved in the incident.

“I am so glad he’s safe,” said Haider Al Saedy, Al Kaby’s first cousin with whom he lived in Michigan. “I didn’t know where he was or why we couldn’t speak to him even though he was innocent, but now I am so happy he is back with our family.”

Al Kaby’s lawsuit was filed in federal district court by Al Saedy and Cyrus Kar, an American who became friends with Al Kaby while the two were detained in neighboring cells for more than a month at the Camp Cropper detention facility in Iraq. Kar, a U.S. Navy veteran in Iraq working on a documentary film, was released after the ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit that made national headlines.

The lawsuit in Al Kaby’s case was due to be heard September 8 in Washington, but Justice Department attorneys filed papers seeking a 23-day delay to respond to the ACLU lawsuit. In a written motion filed on Sunday, the ACLU said: “The only truly novel question here is chilling ? whether a determination of innocence of a lawful permanent resident by a military tribunal may be arbitrarily voided or ignored such that liberty becomes illusory.”

After growing up in Iraq, Al Kaby was forced to escape the country after refusing to continue to serve in Saddam Hussein’s army in 1991. He fled to a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia where he spent more than three years before receiving political asylum in the United States. In the U.S., Al Kaby worked first in Salt Lake City at an airport shop before reuniting with his cousin, Al Saedy, who had spent seven years in the same Saudi Arabian refugee camp. The two moved to Michigan where they opened restaurants.

Attorneys in the case are international law specialist and former Chair of Amnesty International USA, Paul Hoffman; Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky; Rosenbaum, Ranjana Natarajan and Ahilan Arulanantham of the ACLU of Southern California; Legal Director Steven Shapiro and Ben Wizner of the national ACLU; Lucas Guttentag and Lee Gelernt of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Art Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area; Kary Moss and Mike Steinberg of the ACLU of Michigan.

The complaint is available online at: /node/35498

More information about Cyrus Kar is available online at: /node/11887

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release