Shawqi Omar, an Arab-American, was arrested by U.S. forces at his home in Baghdad in October 2004 and held as a suspected insurgent. His lawyers have welcomed a ruling Friday by a Washington, D.C. appeals court that his detention is subject to review by the federal courts.
"The court ruled that the U.S. government cannot put someone in a legal black hole just because it claims 'international authority'," Aziz Huq of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School told United Press International. The Brennan Center is representing Omar.
Omar has been in U.S. custody in Iraq ever since his arrest, the center said. It said he had been interrogated while being subjected to electric shocks.
An appeals panel of the Washington, D.C. Circuit Friday rejected the U.S. government's argument -- which had been accepted by a lower court -- that Omar's detention could not be subject to judicial review because U.S. forces were holding him under the international authority provided by United Nations Security Council resolutions authorizing their presence.
Huq said the government now had to decide whether to appeal the ruling, either to the whole D.C. Circuit sitting en banc, or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, or to allow Omar's case to go forward in the lower court.
In the meantime, he said, a judge's order was preventing the U.S. military from turning Omar over to Iraqi authorities, in whose custody his lawyers fear he would be subject to worse mistreatment and execution without due process.