Supreme Court Hears a Key Case on Detainee Rights

Justices consider whether the right to habeas corpus extends to U.S. citizens held abroad.

***no credit, but caption must state that the photo was
1 taken by U.S. Military
2 released by defense attorney
3 now is a part of court filings
contact emma schwartz at x2060 with questions***

Shawqi Ahmad Omar was photographed by the U.S. Military shortly after his capture in Iraq. Omar's defense attorney released this photo as part of court filings.

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Omar fared better in the lower court. Born to Jordanian parents in Kuwait, Omar was once a member of the Minnesota National Guard. In 2004, however, he was captured during a military raid on his Baghdad home, where the government alleges he was harboring an Iraqi insurgent and four Jordanian fighters. The military alleges Omar ran a kidnapping ring targeting foreigners and that he was close to the late insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi. Indeed, Omar was even charged in a Jordanian indictment along with Zarqawi in an alleged chemical plot. Omar says he is innocent and came to Iraq to look for reconstruction work. The United States says it wants Omar to face justice in the Iraqi system, but a federal appeals court held that he could not immediately be transferred to the Iraqis without further review.

Ultimately, though, the desire of the United States to transfer the detainees represents a change from the treatment that was once afforded American citizens captured abroad, says Sean Watts, a former military lawyer and now a professor at the Creighton University School of Law. "It's a different ballgame [now] when you're dealing with United States citizens," he says. "These cases are departures in that we are willing not to treat them with usual restraint and deference."