After Nearly 50 Days in U.S. Military Custody, Los Angeles Resident Is Still Being Held Without Charges
LOS ANGELES -- The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit against top U.S. government officials on behalf of the family of an American citizen detained indefinitely in Iraq for nearly two months without charge or access to his family or a lawyer, demanding that the man be released and returned to his home in Los Angeles.
The relatives of Cyrus Kar, a 44-year-old part time college professor who had been in Iraq filming a historical documentary, charge that Kar has been unjustly held since May 17 despite the fact that the family has received assurances from the FBI that Kar has been cleared of any wrongdoing. Kar's American relatives filed the lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. today along with international law specialist and former Chair of Amnesty International USA Paul Hoffman and Duke law professor Erwin Chemerinsky against President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey.
"From the moment we heard Cyrus was in U.S. custody, we have been frantically trying to contact every government agency we can," said Shahrzad Folger, Kar's first cousin. "No one has been able to confirm where he is or why he's there. We don't understand why they won't let him come home, especially since the government said he hasn't done anything wrong."
Kar grew up along the West Coast after emigrating from Iran as a child and served in the Navy for three years before earning a bachelor's degree from San Jose State University and a master's degree from Pepperdine University. For the past three years, he had been working on a historical documentary and manuscript about the Persian king Cyrus the Great. Kar and his cameraman Farshid Faraji had traveled to Iran, Tajikistan, Turkey and Afghanistan and collected dozens of hours of film. Kar lacked critical footage of Babylon and entered Iraq only after securing appropriate permits and visas from the U.S. and Iraqi governments and from Kurdish authorities. After Kar missed his return flight to Los Angeles, his relatives confirmed that he was detained by Iraqi police and turned over to U.S. forces while in Iraq.
"I am terrified for Cyrus and his cameraman. I'm worried about my sister's health -- none of us can eat or sleep knowing he is being detained," said Kar's aunt Parvin Modarress, who has had just three short phone conversations with Kar since May. "He was so passionate about his film and that's all he was doing in Iraq, the government must let him go."
According to his relatives, the FBI has cleared Kar of any suspicions and said it was "doing [its] best to bring Cyrus home." After searching his Los Angeles apartment and administering a lie detector test to Kar, the FBI asserted it "knew Cyrus better than Cyrus" and an FBI agent stated the military "just needs to cross all their t's and dot all their i's" and that Kar's release was imminent. But after 50 days, Kar is still being detained in Iraq without charges.
"What has happened to Cyrus and his family belongs in a Kafka novel," said ACLU of Southern California Legal Director Mark Rosenbaum. "It is unacceptable that the U.S. military take an American and detain him indefinitely, for no reason without access to his family or to a lawyer. This administration is trashing the Constitution in the name of national security and forcing us to ask how many more people are being held unjustly like Cyrus."
Added Legal Director of the national ACLU Steven R. Shapiro: "The right to be free from arbitrary detention is a core American freedom. The Supreme Court has clearly said that it is unconstitutional for the U.S. military to hold an American citizen without allowing him to challenge that detention."
The lawsuit charges that Kar's detention violates his constitutional rights, federal law, international law and the regulations of the U.S. military.
Attorneys in the case are Hoffman and Chemerinsky; Rosenbaum, Ahilan Arulanantham and Ranjana Natarajan of the ACLU of Southern California; Shapiro and Ben Wizner of the national ACLU; Lucas Guttentag and Lee Gelernt of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; and Art Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area.
For a copy of the complaint, go to: http://www.aclu.org/ImmigrantsRights/ImmigrantsRights.cfm?ID=18631&c=95.
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