July 10, 2005

U.S. military releases American held in Iraq

By Paritosh Bansal

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The U.S. military in Iraq freed an
American held as a suspected insurgent on Sunday while the
family of the Iranian-born filmmaker criticized his treatment
during nearly eight weeks of captivity by U.S. forces.

Cyrus Kar, 44, was detained by Iraqi troops with his
cameraman in Baghdad after a search of the taxi he was being
driven in found washing machine timers, a common component in
improvised bombs.

Kar, a U.S. Navy veteran, had gone to Iraq in mid-May to
work on a documentary about Cyrus the Great, a king of ancient
Persia, his family said.

"He felt like he was a mushroom. He was left in the dark
and fed garbage," Kar's cousin, Shahrzad Folger, told reporters
in Los Angeles after speaking to Kar after his release in
Baghdad on Sunday.

Kar was one of five Americans the Pentagon said last week
it was holding among the more than 10,000 detainees in Iraq.

Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties
Union, which filed a writ of habeas corpus on Kar's behalf,
called on the U.S. government to apologize to the Los Angeles

"This government owes this family an apology for robbing
him of 50 days of his life and creating a never-ending
nightmare for them," he said.

Kar's passport, laptop computer, film equipment, 20 hours
worth of footage from Iran and Iraq and personal effects were
taken and destroyed, Rosenbaum said.

U.S. officials defended the detention and said Kar was
freed after an FBI investigation determined he was not an
"enemy combatant."

"Kar was detained as an imperative security threat to Iraq
under the authority of the United Nations Security Council
Resolution 1546," the U.S. military said.

"This case highlights the effectiveness of our detainee
review process," said Brig. Gen. Don Alston, a military
spokesman. "We followed well established procedures and Mr. Kar
has now been properly released."

Rosenbaum called the military's statement a "disgrace."
Kar, he said, had passed a lie-detector test on June 9 but was
kept nearly incommunicado for the duration of his incarceration
and allowed to speak to his family only three times.

Kar called his family after his release and said he was
happy to be free but upset over the loss of his documentary
footage, according to his aunt, Parvin Modarress.

Rosenbaum said U.S. authorities in Iraq offered Kar two
disposable cameras after his release.

The FBI had searched Kar's apartment in Los Angeles where
they found, among other things, an American flag, Kar's
pictures from the Navy and pictures of Bob Marley in the
apartment, Rosenbaum said. They also took his laptop and about
60 hours of film footage from the apartment but returned it,
the lawyer said.

Kar's case began to attract attention when the ACLU
prepared to file a writ of habeas corpus on his behalf. A
hearing on that filing had been scheduled for Monday in federal

Kar's cameraman, Farshid Faraji, was also released,
Rosenbaum said.

(Additional reporting by Reuters Baghdad bureau)