ACLU/SC Pushes Anew for Release of Detained American as New Document Shows U.A.E. Cooperated in U.S. Rendition Program

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is asking a federal District Court in Washington D.C to provide access to key information exposing the United States’ role in the detention, torture and prosecution of an American citizen in the United Arab Emirates.

Naji Hamdan, a Muslim American auto-parts businessman who lived in the Los Angeles area for two decades, was detained last year by the U.A.E. at the behest of the U.S. government and severely tortured. He is now facing a June 14 trial in the U.A.E. on unspecified charges of promoting terrorism that appear to be based on false statements obtained through torture.

Included in the request to the District Court filed Tuesday is a document obtained by the ACLU/SC demonstrating that the U.A.E. has acted as the U.S. government’s proxy to detain people for extraordinary rendition in the past. The newly obtained document shows that U.S. officials communicated to Interpol that they intended to carry out an extraordinary rendition of an individual -- not Hamdan -- in U.A.E. custody with the help of Emirate Airlines in 2005.

“This document clearly shows that the U.S. has cooperated with the U.A.E. to engage in proxy detention in the past,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, director of immigrants’ rights and national security for the ACLU/SC. “Sadly, Naji Hamdan’s case makes clear that the U.S. is continuing to engage in such human rights abuses under the Obama administration.”

Also included in the request is information about concerns recently expressed by members of Congress over the U.A.E.’s poor human rights record after a videotape surfaced that captured a member of the Emirati royal family brutally torturing a detainee. Amnesty International has extensively documented the U.A.E.’s practice of torturing prisoners and, in particular, state-security detainees such as Hamdan.

These disturbing revelations, coupled with Hamdan’s looming trial in the U.A.E. and his own account of torture at the hands of U.A.E. officials, have led the ACLU/SC to send a petition bearing more than 1,000 signatures to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to intervene on Hamdan’s behalf to ensure that evidence obtained through torture is not used against him.

“Our government can no longer stay silent in the face of the mistreatment of its own citizens, particularly where they were detained at the behest of their own government,” Arulanantham said. “Given the extremely credible allegations that Hamdan was tortured while in U.A.E. custody, the U.S. must now use its influence to get him out of prison in the U.A.E., or at least ensure that evidence obtained through torture is not used against him in trial.”

In November, the ACLU/SC filed a lawsuit seeking Hamdan’s release. The lawsuit alleges that the United States asked the U.A.E. to detain and interrogate Hamdan -- knowing that he would be tortured -- so that the United States could avoid the constitutional protections Hamdan would have been afforded if detained and charged here at home.

Hamdan, who was born in Lebanon and became a U.S. citizen, managed the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, a mosque and community center. He suffered through years of surveillance and harassment by the FBI that began shortly after the agency increased monitoring of Muslim groups in the United States in the wake of 9/11. In 2006, he decided to relocate his family and business to the U.A.E. In 2008, FBI agents traveled from Los Angeles to the U.A.E. to question Hamdan further. Six weeks later he was detained by agents of the U.A.E.’s state security forces.