ACLU files suit over 2008 detention and treatment of U.S. citizen in U.A.E.

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 20, 2010

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, demanding records about the detention in the United Arab Emirates of a U.S. citizen who claims that the U.S. government colluded in his arrest and torture.

Naji Hamdan, a naturalized American of Lebanese origin, was arrested in the U.A.E. in 2008 and eventually convicted of terrorism charges and sentenced to 18 months in prison by a court in Abu Dhabi.

He was released almost immediately because of time served in pretrial detention.

He was deported to Lebanon, where he now lives with his family.

Hamdan, 44, who previously owned an auto-parts store in Los Angeles and managed an Islamic center, claims that he confessed under torture at a secret prison in the U.A.E. and that the U.S. government orchestrated his arrest and interrogation. In one interrogation session, he said he heard a voice that sounded American warning him to "do what they want or these people will [expletive] you up."

The ACLU said the suit was filed after various federal agencies failed to release any information about Hamdan under a Freedom of Information Act request filed in January.

The suit, which was filed Wednesday in federal court in Los Angeles, is seeking any records on the surveillance of Hamdan in the United States and any documents about his detention and treatment in the U.A.E.

As far back as 1999, Hamdan had been questioned frequently by the FBI in the United States. He was never charged with any crime in the United States.

"This suit seeks to shed light on the U.S. government's practice of contracting with foreign governments to detain, interrogate and often torture individuals it suspects -- rightly or wrongly -- of having connections to terrorism, because the U.S. cannot lawfully engage in these tactics itself," said Jennie Pasquarella, a staff attorney with the ACLU in Southern California.

Neither the CIA or the FBI would comment on Hamdan's case or the lawsuit, but both agencies rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing.

"The policies of this agency across the board hold to the highest legal standards," said Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman.

"The FBI does not request the detention of citizens without a warrant, and not to circumvent their rights," said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman in the FBI's Los Angeles office.

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