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Torture of U.S. citizen alleged

Abdulrahim is a Times staff writer.

A former Hawthorne man detained in the United Arab Emirates since Aug. 29 has been tortured and ultimately charged with a terrorism-related offense, according to a lawyer with the ACLU of Southern California.

Naji Hamdan told his brother during a six-minute call early Tuesday morning that he had been pinned to the ground with his arms and legs twisted behind him and beaten until he passed out, according to an ACLU statement released Wednesday. The ACLU’s information was based on the account from Hamdan’s brother.

Hamdan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was also beaten on the soles of his feet, kept awake by a spotlight and told his family would be punished if he didn’t confess to his interrogators’ allegations, the ACLU said.

“They took out his soul,” said Hamdan’s brother, Hossam Hemdan, using a common Arabic expression, in an interview with The Times.

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Hemdan, who spells his last name differently, said his brother signed every confession given to him, though he didn’t know what he was signing and didn’t care, in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the torture.

Hamdan, who lived in the Hawthorne area for two decades and still owns an auto parts business in L.A., faces four charges, including one related to terrorism, Hemdan said.

“It seems like they are trying to prosecute him using statements he made under torture,” said Jennie Pasquarella, the ACLU attorney.

The ACLU filed a habeas corpus petition last month against the U.S. government alleging that Hamdan was being held at the government’s behest. ACLU lawyers said they were considering amending the lawsuit to include the torture allegations.

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“If the U.S. is responsible for his detainment -- which we believe they are -- they are responsible for this torture,” Pasquarella said.

A State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs spokeswoman did not return calls for comment Wednesday and a spokesman for the Emirates embassy in Washington said it would be inappropriate to comment on a police and security matter involving a private U.S. citizen.

Hamdan was released from state security custody and taken to a prison near the city of Abu Dhabi on Nov. 26. Since his transfer he has not been tortured, Hemdan said.

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raja.abdulrahim@latimes.com


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