March 2, 2008 By Associated Press
WASHINGTON - An American held in Iraq by the US military has had his conviction and death sentence overturned by an Iraqi court, the man's American lawyer said.
Iraqi-born Mohammad Munaf, a naturalized American citizen since 2000, has been held by the US military since May 2005. He was convicted in 2006 on charges he helped in the 2005 kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad.
Munaf's lawyer, Joseph Margulies, said the Iraqi Court of Cassation reversed the conviction and sentence because it could not determine the role Munaf and other defendants played in the kidnapping from the court record.
The Iraqi prosecutor supported the court's decision, Margulies said in an e-mail Friday.
Munaf is part of a pending US Supreme Court case in which he and another naturalized American, Shawqi Omar, are trying to prevent the military from handing them over to the Iraqis.
The Bush administration argues that they should not be able to contest their pending transfers in US courts since they are being held not by the United States, but by coalition forces in Iraq.
The administration, in its Supreme Court filing, said, "Munaf admitted on camera, in writing, and in front of the Iraqi investigative court that he participated as an accomplice in the kidnapping for profit of the Romanian journalists."
Munaf has said his confession was coerced.
It is unclear what will happen to Munaf or how the Iraqi court decision will affect the Supreme Court case.
Earlier Friday, the Associated Press, reporters groups, and advocates for press freedoms urged the Supreme Court to reject the administration's arguments that people held by the military in Iraq have no access to American courts.