Judge Blocks Handover of Citizen to Iraq

Shawqi Omar

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Monday ordered the U.S. military not to hand over to the Iraqi government a U.S. citizen suspected of being a senior associate of insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The case of Shawqi Omar is the latest legal fight that tests the limits on the Bush administration's power to keep Americans it has identified as terrorists out of U.S. courts.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina of Washington granted a request from Omar's family to keep him in military custody in Iraq while Urbina decides whether the 44-year-old Kuwaiti native should have his case heard in a U.S. court. A temporary order preventing Omar's transfer had been set to expire Monday.

The Justice Department was reviewing the ruling, said department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.

Omar has not been charged with a crime nor given access to a lawyer since being arrested at his home in Baghdad in October 2004.

The U.S. government said Omar, who also holds Jordanian citizenship, was harboring an Iraqi insurgent and four Jordanian fighters at the time of his arrest and also had bomb-making materials. He is described in court papers as a relative of Zarqawi who was plotting to kidnap foreigners from Baghdad hotels.

Details here from the AP via the Houston Chronicle.