Sunday, July 9, 2006
LOS ANGELES, July 8 -- An aspiring Iranian American filmmaker who spent nearly two months in a prison in Iraq without being charged has sued Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other military officials, calling the government's detention policies unconstitutional.
Cyrus Kar, 45, of Los Angeles, seeks unspecified damages and major changes in the government's detention policies overseas.
The suit was filed this week in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. It is the first civil case challenging detention policies in Iraq, said Mark Rosenbaum, the organization's legal director.
A phone message left for a Pentagon spokesman was not immediately returned Saturday.
When Kar was released, military officials said that he had been properly detained as "an imperative security threat" and that the matter had been handled and resolved appropriately.
"This case highlights the effectiveness of our detainee review process," spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston said after Kar's release.
Kar was taken into custody in May 2005 after he visited Iraq to make a documentary film about Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who wrote the world's first human rights charter. Potential bomb parts were found in a taxi in which Kar was riding.
He was released July 10, 2005, after his family sued, accusing the federal government of violating his civil rights and holding him after the FBI cleared him of suspicion. He is a former U.S. Navy Seal, according to news reports.
The new lawsuit said his 55-day detention violated not only his civil rights, but also the Geneva Conventions and the law of nations.
"Human rights monitors note that the vast majority of the over 15,000 detainees in U.S. military custody in Iraq have never been charged, tried, provided counsel, or allowed to challenge their detention in court, and over one-fifth of them have been detained for over a year in this manner," the suit states.
Kar said that while he was imprisoned, he was at various times hooded and threatened, taunted and insulted by U.S. soldiers. One soldier slammed Kar's head into a concrete wall, the suit said.
What happened to him in Iraq was "a life-altering experience," Kar told the Los Angeles Times.
In addition to Rumsfeld, the defendants include Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commanding general of the multinational forces in Iraq, and Maj. Gen. William H. Brandenburg, who was in charge of detainee operations in Iraq at the time of Kar's detention.