ACLU sues federal agencies allegedly behind ex-Hawthorne man's detention

LOS ANGELES — The American Civil Liberties Union sued federal intelligence agencies today, seeking information about the detention and alleged torture of a former Hawthorne resident in the United Arab Emirates.

Naji Hamdan, 44, who now lives in Lebanon with his family, was picked up in UAE in August 2008, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, but the FBI and the Central Intelligence and National Security agencies, among other governmental units, have refused to divulge any information — even after the ACLU of Southern California filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act in January.

The complaint alleges U.S. intelligence agencies were involved in the man's capture and torture.

Hamdan, a former auto parts dealer and manager of the Hawthorne Islamic Center, was living in UAE when its security forces arrested him, allegedly at the behest of the U.S. government, the ACLU contends.

Agents allegedly kept him in a secret prison in Abu Dhabi for three months without charging him with a crime, according to the ACLU complaint.

Hamdan claims at least one American participated in his interrogation and alleged abuse.

"This suit seeks to shed light on the U.S. government's practice of contracting with foreign governments to detain, interrogate, and often torture individuals it suspects — rightly or wrongly — of having connections to terrorism, because the U.S. cannot lawfully engage in these tactics itself,'' said Jennie Pasquarella, an ACLU staff attorney.

"The American public deserves to know about our government's practice of using other foreign governments — that are known to torture detainees — as our proxy to detain and interrogate people outside the rule of law. The public has a right to know how many other people, like Naji Hamdan, are currently detained in secret, without charge, and subjected to torture and other inhumane practices at our government's request.''

Hamdan was detained in UAE until the ACLU filed suit in Nov. 2008 against the U.S. government for his illegal detention, the ACLU said.

A week later, Hamdan was moved to an official UAE prison and charged with terrorism.

A year after that, Hamdan was convicted and sentenced to time served. He was released in Oct. 2009, after a more than 13-month campaign by the ACLU and other civil rights groups.