The U.S. military released an Iranian-born American citizen on Sunday after nearly two months' detention in Iraq, according to his lawyer and military spokesmen.
Cyrus Kar, 44, of Los Angeles, was arrested by Iraqi security forces on May 17 near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, with his Iraqi taxi driver and an Iranian cameraman. Kar was in Iraq to make a film, his relatives have said in published interviews. But the U.S. military said that the taxi he was traveling in was also carrying 35 washing machine timers, which can be used to trigger homemade bombs.
Kar was detained as "an imperative security threat to Iraq" while the FBI investigated his case, the military said in a statement released Sunday. He was not charged with a crime or allowed access to a lawyer.
After a hearing on July 4, a military detainee review board "determined Kar was not an enemy combatant and recommended his release," the statement said. Kar and his cameraman "were released from a theater internment facility today and then transported to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad," said Army Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, the military's spokesman for detainee operations. Kar had earlier been cleared in an FBI investigation. The U.S. military said the taxi driver would remain in detention, the Associated Press reported.
Kar has lived in the United States since the age of 9, according to the Los Angeles Times. He served in the U.S. Navy for three years and attended San Jose State University, where he received a degree in marketing. He was in Iraq, according to the published reports, to produce a film about Cyrus the Great, who ruled Persia in the 6th century B.C.
Kar was released one day before the U.S. government was to respond in U.S. federal court to a lawsuit filed last week by his family and the American Civil Liberties Union. They charged he was being held without charges despite having been cleared of wrongdoing by the FBI. Kar's attorney, Mark D. Rosenbaum, said that the government had known since mid-June that Kar posed no security threat. He had been one of five American citizens being detained in Iraq.
"Saddam Hussein had more due process rights than Cyrus," Rosenbaum said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.
The chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, said in a statement released after Kar was freed that his case "highlights the effectiveness of our detainee review process. We followed well-established procedures, and Mr. Kar has now been properly released. We understand this has been difficult for Mr. Kar and his family, however, we owe the Coalition Forces, Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi civilians a thorough investigation."
Rosenbaum said that Kar was released without being given his passport or personal belongings. However, Rudisill, the detainee operations spokesman, said all of Kar's property, including his passport, had been safely preserved and returned to him before he was released.