We filed this petition for habeas corpus in November 2008 on behalf of Mona Mallouk, who is the wife of Naji Hamdan, a U.S. citizen who had been secretly detained for nearly three months by the United Arab Emirates, allegedly at the behest of the U.S. government. But we think the U.S. government can’t be allowed to evade constitutional limitations on imprisoning U.S. citizens simply by asking friendly foreign governments to do the dirty work.
The court ordered the government to show cause why the writ should not issue. Soon after that Mr. Hamdan was transferred to a regular prison, charged with several criminal offenses, and allowed to retain an attorney and to receive consular visits from the U.S. Embassy.
The government moved to dismiss our petition, arguing that a U.S. court has no authority to order a foreign nation to release a person from its prison. But we sought only an order directing the United States to stop asking the UAE to hold Mr. Hamdan at our behest. Nevertheless, the court dismissed the case in August 2009, on the ground that it had no such power. We filed an appeal.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hamdan had a trial in the UAE and in October 2009 he was convicted and sentenced to only 18 months’ imprisonment, most of which he had already served. He was released almost immediately, and we dismissed our appeal. While our lawsuit was formally a defeat, it may well be that it had a large impact on our client’s being formally charged, tried, and released.