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Brennan Center Says D.C. Appeals Court Decision Threatens Unchecked Detention of American Citizens a

April 9, 2007

For Immediate Release
April 9, 2007

Jonathan Hafetz, 212–998–6289
Mike Webb, 212–998–6746

Brennan Center Says D.C. Appeals Court Decision Threatens Unchecked Detention of American Citizens and Calls Supreme Court Review Inevitable

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. dismissed the habeas corpus case of Mohammad Munaf (Munaf v. Geren), an American citizen facing execution in Iraq. The court ruled that a U.S. court has no power or authority to hear Mr. Munaf’s challenge to his detention and threatened transfer to Iraq by American forces.

“The appeals court’s decision contradicts an unbroken line of precedent affirming an American citizen’s entitlement to habeas corpus when detained by his own government,” said Jonathan Hafetz, who directs litigation for the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Project. “At the same time,” noted Hafetz, “the court made clear that the decision presents issues of pressing national importance that must ultimately be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Mr. Munaf traveled to Iraq in March 2005 at the request of three Romanian journalists to serve as their guide and translator. Munaf and the journalists were kidnapped, held for fifty-five days, and upon his release, he was arrested and detained by U.S. forces. Munaf was subsequently tried, convicted and sentenced to death by an Iraqi court for allegedly having a role in the kidnapping. 

“The decision would open the door to unchecked executive power,” added Hafetz. “It creates the possibility that an American citizen detained by U.S. officials anywhere in the world can be detained without due process. It also means that an American citizen can be handed over to a foreign government for imprisonment or even execution without any court review.”

In February, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law won a landmark victory in Omar v. Harvey, a case involving another American citizen detained by the United States in Iraq.  There, a different panel of the D.C. court of appeals ruled that the petitioner’s detention was subject to judicial review by way of habeas corpus. 

The Brennan Center will seek Supreme Court review in Mr. Munaf’s case to vindicate the fundamental right of all American citizens to judicial review, due process, and the rule of law.

Joseph Margulies of the MacArthur Justice Center, Eric M. Freedman of Hofstra Law School, Amy Magid of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., and Susan L. Burke and Katherine Hawkins of Burke, Pyle, LLC, are co-counsel with the Brennan Center on the case. Mr. Margulies argued the case in the court of appeals.

Petitioner’s Opening Brief (Dec. 8, 2006)
Respondent’s Brief in Opposition (Dec. 22, 2006)
Petitioner’s Reply Brief (Jan. 5, 2007)