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Rumsfeld sued over wrong detention

india Updated: Jul 08, 2006 13:52 IST

A Los Angeles filmmaker has sued US Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld and many high-ranking military officials for wrongly imprisoning him for 55 days in Iraq last year.

Cyrus Kar, 45, filed his suit in a Los Angeles federal court on Friday, alleging that his imprisonment violated his civil rights, international law, the Geneva Convention and fundamental principles of the due process of law.

The suit is the first civil action challenging the constitutionality of the detention and hearing policies of the US government in Iraq.

Kar, a US citizen and navy veteran, went to Iraq 14 months ago to make a documentary film about Cyrus the Great -- the Persian king who issued the world's first human rights charter.

On May 17, 2005, he was stopped at a Baghdad checkpoint in a taxi and was detained after security personnel found a common component for improvised explosive devices in the trunk.

The driver told military authorities that Kar and his cameraman were passengers and knew nothing about the devices, which the driver said were washing machine timers that he was taking to his brother-in-law.

The US military said they detained Kar as he posed "an imperative security threat", noting that the washing machine timers found in the taxi were a "common component" in the construction of improvised explosive devices.

The FBI later searched Kar's house but found nothing incriminating. However, Kar was held for many weeks in various prisons around Iraq, including the notorious facility at Abu Ghraib.

While in confinement, the suit states, Kar was at various times hooded, restrained "in painful flexi-cuffs," and "repeatedly threatened, taunted and insulted" by US soldiers. At one point, according to the suit, a soldier at Abu Ghraib slammed Kar's head into a concrete wall.

Even after military judges found him to be an "innocent civilian" under the Geneva Convention, Kar was held for another week.

Kar was freed after the American Civil Liberties Union, where he worked, sought his release.

"The abuses experienced by Kar -- prolonged arbitrary detention without charge, the systematic denial of access to counsel, and the absence of any court in which to challenge the legality of his detention -- are the norm for thousands of persons held in US military detention in Iraq," the suit stated.

In addition, the suit cited a 2004 report of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which said military intelligence officers of coalition forces admitted that "between 70 and 90 percent of the people deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake".

In addition to Rumsfeld, the defendants include General George W Casey Jr, the commanding general of the multi-national forces in Iraq; Major General William H Brandenburg, commanding general of the task force in charge of detainee operations in Iraq at the time of Kar's detention; Lt Col Carol Haas, the commandant of Camp Cropper when Kar was held there in solitary confinement; and Lt Col John Dunlap, who was president of the military's detainee status board in Iraq.