Lawyers Seek Release of U.S. Detainee In Iraq

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 31, 2005; A19

An Iraqi-born U.S. resident who was arrested in Baghdad in April after a mortar attack on American forces has been detained for months despite a finding by a military tribunal that he had nothing to do with the attack, according to the man's attorneys.

American Civil Liberties Union and private lawyers are demanding the release of Numan Adnan Al Kaby and seeking a declaration that his detention has violated his right to counsel and his right to due process. They are to file a lawsuit in federal court in Washington today.

Al Kaby's plight appears similar to problems faced earlier this year by Cyrus Kar, an Iranian American filmmaker who was arrested in Iraq on suspicions that he was involved in a terrorist plot.

Only after his family petitioned a federal court did the military move to release Kar, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Navy veteran. Like Al Kaby, Kar had been cleared by a military panel but remained in jail even though the military panel had recommended his release.

The two men were housed in adjacent cells at Camp Cropper near Baghdad and were, at least nominally, in solitary confinement. But they were allowed to talk to each other because they had both been "cleared" and they came to know each other quite well, according to the petition.

It was Kar who, after his release in mid-July, told Al Kaby's family what had happened to Al Kaby after his arrest.

A Defense Department official -- who spoke on the condition of anonymity because officials in Iraq authorized to answer questions were not available late yesterday -- said deciding how to proceed with any detainee requires careful consideration.

"The investigative process takes time," the official said. "It is critical we remain very thorough in our efforts to gather and assess all available information and make decisions based on facts."

A Shiite opposed to Saddam Hussein, Al Kaby fled Iraq in 1991 and went to Saudi Arabia, where he spent three years as a refugee, according to the petition. Granted political asylum, he moved to the United States and lived with a cousin, Haider Al Saedy, who had also been in the Saudi refugee camp.

In 2004, Al Kaby, who had become a permanent U.S. resident and had applied for U.S. citizenship, returned to Iraq for the first time in 13 years, to see his family and help in the rebuilding effort. After working as a military interpreter and trying to open a beauty supply store, Al Kaby went to work for an American construction company in Iraq, according to the petition.

One day in April, he called in sick, so he could take his brother to buy a car. The same day, the base where he worked was struck by a mortar attack. When he returned to the base two days later, he was accused of participating in the attack, based largely on his timely sick day.

Despite his protests, Al Kaby was taken into custody, and by June he had been placed in Camp Cropper, where he met Kar. Kar had been arrested in May after the taxi he was riding in was stopped and timers sometimes used in bombs were found inside. The FBI determined that Kar knew nothing about the timers, and military hearings July 4 found that neither he nor Al Kaby was an enemy combatant, according to the petition in Al Kaby's case.

Al Kaby's family is wondering what it will take to get him released.

"I'm not saying they cannot suspect anyone. That's their job," said Al Saedy, the cousin, who lives in Michigan. "But if you have been cleared from all the accusations, just release the people."