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U.S. Detainee Can Be Transferred to Iraq

(CN) - Relatives of a detained U.S. citizen lost their bid to block the United States from turning him over to Iraqi authorities, despite the risk that he would be tortured.

Shawqi Ahmad Omar was arrested in Iraq by the U.S. military in October 2004 for allegedly aiding insurgents there.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina of the District of Columbia ruled that Omar's transfer does not violate the international tenets of the Convention Against Torture, which prevents the government from sending detainees to countries where they might be tortured.

Omar's family had filed a habeas petition in 2005, but soon learned that the United States intended to transfer Omar to Iraqi custody.

They then successfully sought a court order temporarily blocking the transfer.

The Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court in Munaf v. Geren. In June 2008, the justices overturned the preliminary injunction, ruling that courts can't keep the executive branch from transferring custody if a U.S. citizen is accused of a crime in a foreign nation and is already being held there. The Supreme Court ruled that Omar's case should be dismissed.

Omar's lawyers filed a new habeas petition based on the possibility that Omar would be tortured, citing the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act, which implements domestically the Convention Against Torture.

But Judge Urbina said he lacked jurisdiction to hear the FARR Act claim and cited the D.C. Circuit's decision in Kiyemba v. Obama, which found that nine Chinese Uighers could not stop the United States from transferring them to a country where they might be tortured.

Urbina also rejected the claim that Omar's transfer would violate the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Omar "traveled to Iraq of his own volition, and Iraq plainly has the authority to prosecute him for any crimes he committed within its sovereign territory," Urbina wrote.

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