Federal court refuses to block transfer of US citizen to Iraq to face death penalty

[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Thursday denied an emergency motion [text, PDF; declaration, PDF] to prevent the US military [JURIST report] from surrendering translator and accused kidnapper Mohammad Munaf, a US citizen, to Iraqi officials to face the death penalty. Munaf was convicted and sentenced to death by an Iraqi judge after being arrested in Romania on kidnapping charges [JURIST report] for allegedly kidnapping and detaining three Romanian journalists for 55 days in Iraq. Munaf is currently in the custody of the Multi-National Force - Iraq [official website], and the District Court denied Munaf's motion [opinion, PDF] because Munaf is "in the custody of a multinational entity and not the United States" and "cannot invoke this Court's jurisdiction." US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth [official profile] wrote: "In time of actual hostilities or war, as in Iraq, courts should tread lightly and give the president, as commander in chief, the full power of his office."

Munaf's lawyers sought the emergency motion [JURIST comment] to delay his transfer "until the court could properly adjudicate his habeas petition and his claim that his detention and threatened transfer violate the Constitution and laws of the United States." Munaf has asserted that the Iraqi trial violated his due process protections as a US citizen because he was not confronted with the evidence brought against him, and he was prevented from presenting his own exculpatory evidence. Munaf can appeal Thursday's decision and ask a federal appeals court to block his transfer. AP has more.

 

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