October 10, 2010 in Nation/World

Ex-captive from Syria sues U.S. for detention

Taliban or al-Qaida also held, punished him
Carol Rosenberg McClatchy
 

In a first for a former Guantanamo captive freed by a federal judge, a Syrian man now living in Europe is suing the U.S. government for damages from what he calls a “Kafkaesque nightmare.”

The 44-page lawsuit by Abdul Razak al-Janko, 32, described a decade-long odyssey of detention – first in Taliban-era Afghanistan, where he was tortured as an alleged pro-American Israeli spy, and later in U.S. military prisons that ignored or misdiagnosed his history as a torture victim.

In addition, al-Janko alleges that U.S. soldiers urinated on him on his May 2002 arrival at Guantanamo, where he was subsequently subjected to solitary confinement and sleep deprivation and beaten by a rapid-reaction force. He said he attempted to commit suicide 17 times in despair.

President Barack Obama’s administration had no comment.

Federal courts rebuffed an earlier bid by former Guantanamo captives to sue the Bush administration for compensation, a case called Rasul v. Rumsfeld. That case was brought by four men who were released years ago through a diplomatic deal between the United States and Britain’s Tony Blair government.

Al-Janko, however, is armed with a June 22, 2009, victory in his habeas corpus petition. It is one of just 38 wins so far since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2008 that the Constitution covers a Guantanamo captive’s right to file false imprisonment petitions in federal courts.

Judge Richard J. Leon, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote in his 13-page decision that the Syrian’s detention as a war prisoner “defies common sense” in part because he had been held and tortured by the Taliban or al-Qaida in the 18 months prior to his capture by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Al-Janko was released four months later and, according to the lawsuit, seeks damages to cover his medical expenses from physical and psychological damage in U.S. custody as well as punitive damages.

It says he “still has scars and other evidence of this physical torture and ill-treatment such as loss of bodily functions and inability to sleep.”

The lawsuit was filed by Venice, Calif., attorney Paul L. Hoffman, who is seeking a jury trial in the same Washington courthouse where Leon ordered al-Janko set free.


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