Innocent Civilian Held in Iraq Released

September 07, 2005

Less than a week after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against top U.S. officials demanding the release of a long-time U.S. resident, the government freed him Tuesday.

The release comes almost two months after a military court declared Numan Adnan Al Kaby innocent and just two days before a judge was to hear the case in Washington, D.C.

"It was only after a hearing was set that Mr. Al Kaby was released," said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director. "Holding an innocent man for 2 months is indefensible, but it took a federal lawsuit against the president to secure his release."

Numan Adnan 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. Al Kaby 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 suit was due to be heard Thursday, Sept. 8 in Washington, but Justice Department attorneys, filed papers seeking a 23-day delay to respond to the ACLU suit. In a motion filed Sunday, the ACLU wrote: "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 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; and Art Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area; and Moss and Legal Director Mike Steinberg of the ACLU of Michigan.

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