First a warning, this is a very emotionally difficult story to read:
A quick summary of the story. An American citizen (although he was originally born in Iraq and had two muslim wives) was arrested by American military forces in Iraq. Two other prisoners being interrogated under torture had named him as someone connected to their terrorist group. But there does not appear to be any other evidence. Shawki Omar has been in held in prison since October 2004, and has suffered (fairly severe) torture during that time. He was never officially charged or had evidence presented against him. In June 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Omar could be transferred over to the custody of the new Iraqi provincial government, removing him from Constitutional and legal protections in the U.S.
To spell it out plainly, this sets a kind of disturbing legal precedent that an American citizen can be arrested by American forces, in a territory controlled by U.S. forces, and then handed over to another government and denied U.S. legal rights.
(The first elections and approval of the new constitution for Iraq didn’t take place until January 2005.)
Omar continued to be under U.S. custody for another 3 years after the Supreme Court ruling, until June 2010, when he was formally charged by an Iraqi court of “entering the country illegally”.
Those close to Omar say this is an incredulous allegation. Omar claims his entry card was stamped when he had crossed the Syrian border into Iraq in June 2004, but the American forces who had seized him during his arrest had taken all his identity documents, so he now has no way to prove it.
Omar was sentenced to 15 years in prison based on the charge of entering the country illegally.
So this seems to be just a legal excuse to keep him in prison, because they did not actually have adequate evidence to try him for terrorism (or did not want to openly present the evidence for some reason).
It seems basically all the Iraqi government had to do was lose the record of Omar entering the country, and then the absence of the recorded entry was enough evidence to convict him of having entered illegally.
This of course potentially raises other troubling legal issues about burden of evidence when it comes to registration laws.
But more to the core issue, it also raises legal question about whether (or how much) someone should be punished for a crime based only on the fact that another prisoner names them as an accomplice. The authorities holding that prisoner might be incentivizing or coercing that prisoner to give them another name, even if it’s falsely.
That would very much likely be the case in this situation, since those prisoners were subjected to torture during interrogation. They might have just said any name they could think of to try to make the torture stop.
While some of you might argue that what happened in this story was justified, due to the situation, these type of cases still set a very concerning legal precedent. It can be a very slippery slope, if the rights of one citizen are denied.