An Iraqi-born U.S. resident was released from a U.S. military prison in Baghdad yesterday, two days before a scheduled hearing on why the U.S. government had continued to detain him after clearing him of involvement in a mortar attack.
The government's decision to free Numan Adnan Al-Kaby comes less than a week after lawyers filed suit demanding his release. A federal judge had scheduled a hearing on Al-Kaby's case for Thursday afternoon, but the government yesterday asked that it be canceled and the complaint be dismissed as moot.
Al-Kaby was arrested in April in Baghdad after a mortar attack on U.S. forces, but in July a military tribunal concluded he was not involved and recommended his release. In court papers filed yesterday, Justice Department lawyers acknowledged that Al-Kaby had been declared not guilty, but they said the military received additional information shortly after that decision and completed its investigation Friday -- two days after Al-Kaby's lawsuit was filed. Officials formally concluded he could be released to his family in Iraq yesterday.
Al-Kaby was a neighbor in prison of Cyrus Kar, an Iranian American filmmaker who was arrested in May on suspicion that he was involved in a terrorist plot. Like Al-Kaby, Kar was cleared by a military panel and recommended for release but remained in jail until days after his family filed suit in July.
One of Al-Kaby's attorneys, Mark Rosenbaum of the American Civil Liberties Union's Southern California chapter, called the government's explanation "a baldfaced lie" and charged that the government was covering up a "huge scandal" involving illegal detention of potentially hundreds or thousands of innocent people in Iraq.
"It certainly makes you wonder how many more people have been sitting in military jails for weeks and months after they know the person is innocent," said Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU's Washington office.
The Justice Department declined to comment.