For more than a month, two U.S. citizens who worked for contractors in Iraq were held in prison with no formal charges against them.
They were pressed to sign an Iraqi government statement but refused, their attorneys say, and waited 43 days for their day in court before being released on bond after a hearing in Iraq’s Central Criminal Court over the weekend. Yet their attorneys say they still do not know specifically why they were detained.
The men weren’t being held by Iraqi authorities but rather by the FBI in a U.S. military prison, prompting allegations from their attorneys that American due-process laws weren’t being followed.
“When American citizens are held by American authorities, the Constitution and Bill of Rights all apply regardless of the technical circumstances,” said Tim Haake, a former two-star Army general and lawyer who is helping to represent the two detained men, Micah Milligan and Jason Jones.
Thomas Suddath, a lawyer in Philadelphia also representing the men, said U.S. authorities gave the legal team very little information about what charges were being contemplated against the men.
Stacey Jones, wife of Mr. Jones, said on Saturday afternoon that her husband was released from custody at Camp Cropper, the military prison near Baghdad International Airport.
“As of now he’s not sure what will happen next,” she told The Washington Times in an e-mail. “He went back to his room in the [international zone] and will meet with his lawyer in the morning to find out what the next step is. This is a big relief and one step closer to getting him home.”
FBI officials confirm that they had custody of the two men since about June 3. Mr. Milligan and Mr. Jones were arrested along with three other Americans by a task force of U.S. agents and Iraqi officials during an investigation of the killing of an American citizen. The men eventually were cleared of murder charges and three of the five were released from prison, though they were denied the right to leave Iraq, according to an Iraqi court document and lawyers representing the men.
Mr. Milligan and Mr. Jones remained in detention, based on unspecified evidence of other crimes involving weapons, drugs and license plates uncovered during the investigation, at the U.S. military prison at Camp Cropper, according to military and FBI spokesmen.
FBI Assistant Director John Miller told The Times that the men are “under investigation by Iraqi authorities for alleged violations of Iraqi law” and that FBI agents had custody of them at the U.S. military prison at Camp Cropper under a little-known 2008 agreement outlining the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, which contains a provision that FBI and U.S. military officials say allows the Bureau to assist Iraqi authorities in investigations of Iraqi legal violations.
The December 2008 U.S.-Iraqi troop withdrawal agreement contains a provision that states that U.S. forces can assist the Iraqi government in pursing “wanted” criminals.
“The FBI was requested to assist the Iraqi police in the investigation of the murder of a U.S. citizen,” Mr. Miller said. “That investigation led to the search, which resulted in the arrest of other U.S. citizens for the alleged possession of illegal weapons and drugs.”
Mr. Miller said the FBI is not aware of any allegations of misconduct by the FBI in the case. Asked whether FBI agents tried to force Mr. Milligan into signing a statement, Mr. Miller said, “We wouldn’t get into characterizing any specific conversations between an FBI employee and anyone in an ongoing matter.”
Legal analysts disagree about the ability of U.S. authorities to detain Americans in this way. “Anytime the U.S. acts in the detention and interrogation of American citizens, even when abroad, they are bound by the Constitution,” said Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer with American Civil Liberties Union who has worked on legal issues related to the detentions of Americans in Iraq.
Former Pentagon detainee affairs specialist Charles Stimson, now with the Heritage Foundation, disagrees. He said the Iraqi government and the FBI can do exactly what they’re doing in this case.