Supremes weigh habeas rights of US citizens held in Iraq
Legal Topics | 2008/03/27 16:24

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the consolidated cases of Munaf v. Geren and Geren v. Omar where the Court is considering whether federal courts have jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed by American citizens detained by US military personnel operating under a multinational force. The cases also present the issue of whether a federal court would have jurisdiction over a habeas petition filed by an American citizen if a foreign court convicted the citizen of a crime, but the citizen is still in the physical custody of American authorities. Mohammad Munaf was convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad, and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in April 2007 that it lacked authority to interfere with the Iraqi court case. Two months earlier, however, the same court ruled that Shawqi Omar, arrested for allegedly harboring insurgents in Iraq, has a right to argue his case in US courts. The appeals court blocked Omar's transfer to Iraqi courts. Earlier this month, Munaf's conviction was overturned by an Iraqi appeals court. Lawyers for the detainees argued that because they are in US custody, they should have access to US courts, but several justices seemed to reject that argument, noting that could lead to any Multi-National Force-Iraq detainee challenging their arrest in US courts. AP has more.

The Court also heard oral arguments in United States v. Ressam, where "millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam is challenging his conviction under 18 USC § 844(h)(2), which authorizes a mandatory minimum ten year jail term for anyone carrying explosives while committing a felony. In Ressam's case, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the count as the underlying felony - lying on customs papers - was not related to the explosives charge. Ressam has been sentenced to 22 years in prison  for plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999. US Attorney General Michael Mukasey argued the case on behalf of the government.



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