Former aid worker sues ex-U.S. officials
An Algerian man and former humanitarian aid worker, who says he was kidnapped at the behest of U.S. officials in Pakistan and held at Guantánamo Bay for nearly six years, has sued former Defense secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates — and a host of other officials from the administration of George W. Bush — in federal court in Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A former humanitarian aid worker from Algeria, who says he was kidnapped at the behest of U.S. officials in Pakistan and held at Guantánamo Bay for nearly six years, has sued former Defense secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates and a host of other officials from the administration of George W. Bush in federal court in Seattle.
Mammar Ameur, described in the lawsuit as a 54-year-old father of four, alleges he was detained when Pakistani police conducted a raid looking for his neighbor. He claims unidentified U.S. officials told the Pakistanis to interrogate him anyway, beginning what the lawsuit describes as a six-year nightmare.
Ameur claims he was first held in a Pakistani prison and then at Bagram Air Field. He said he was hung by handcuffs and forced into stress positions, deprived of sleep and food, threatened with dogs and stripped naked.
The lawsuit is seeking damages for Ameur for cruel and inhumane treatment as a civilian at a time of war, which is against the Geneva Convention and a violation of his rights to due process. The complaint alleges that he was cleared and ordered released by the Administrative Review Board at Guantánamo in 2005, but nobody told him or his attorney about it for three more years.
He returned to Algeria in 2008.
The lawsuit alleges Ameur's attorneys have a sworn declaration by retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, which states that certain United States officials, "including Defendants Rumsfeld and Gates, knew that innocent men had been unlawfully seized and were being held at Guantánamo Bay. They simply refused to release them out of fear of political repercussions."
Ameur was one of several hundred so-called "enemy combatants" rounded up by the U.S. and its allies in the months and years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
While he was briefly identified as an enemy combatant following a tribunal in 2004 — two years after his arrest — that designation was rescinded the following year and he was ordered released by a review board. However, nobody alerted his defender or told Ameur of that order until October 2008, when he was returned to Algeria after his lawyers filed a wrongful-detention lawsuit against the government in federal court in Washington, D.C.
This is the second case filed against Gates and others in Seattle by the International Human Rights Clinic at Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Ore. The group filed the cases here because Gates has a home in Western Washington.
The other case — involving a man arrested in the same raid, Adel Hassam Hamad — has survived a number of motions by the government to dismiss Gates from the case and is set to go to trial in July 2012.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706