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Judge orders feds against intimidating Iraqi detainees

Judge's gavel with books on a desk

A federal judge in Detroit has ruled the government cannot threaten Iraqi detainees with indefinite detention or prosecution to get them to sign a document saying they want to leave the US. The government is trying to deport the Iraqis, who say they face persecution or death if they return to Iraq.

ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman says the detainees are being denied legal assistance.

“If you were going to be asked to sign a document that could take you away from your family forever, that could take you to a country where you are in grave danger, if you are being told you need to sign that document, you would want to have a lawyer look at it first.”

The order also says the ACLU can ask 33 Iraqis who have signed whether they did so under duress. If so, the ACLU would use that to fight their deportation. 

Aukerman says detainees reported they were threatened with prosecution or indefinite detention.

“You can’t coerce people by telling them things that, first of all, are not true, and, secondly, very threatening in order to get them to say they want to leave America, and that’s a very important part of the order.”

Many of the Iraqis are from metro Detroit and are being held in jails and detention centers across the country. The government is trying to deport them because they were convicted of crimes in the past. Many of the detainees are Christians who say they face persecution and violence if they are returned to Iraq.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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