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Suit by Iraqis and Afghans claims Rumsfeld ordered torture

The Justice Department has asked the judge to throw out the ACLU-supported case against the former defense secretary.

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As Donald Rumsfeld prepares to leave his job as secretary of Defense, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is seeking to hold him responsible for what it says was widespread torture carried out at his direction. [Editor's Note: The original version was changed because the American Civil Liberties Union says its civil suit is not intended to prove a war crime.]

Lawyers representing Mr. Rumsfeld and three US Army commanders are set to appear in federal court here Friday in response to a lawsuit charging that the Defense secretary authorized torture and other illegal abuse of military detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq – including at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

The case is important because it represents an attempt to hold US officials accountable for alleged illegal abuse of Iraqi and Afghan civilians who were never detained as enemy combatants or charged with any crime. But some legal analysts say the suit may be aimed more at shaping public opinion than winning in court because such cases are difficult to pursue.

The Justice Department lawyers representing Rumsfeld have not responded directly to the torture charges. Instead, they are asking Chief US District Court Judge Thomas Hogan to throw the suit out because Rumsfeld is entitled to immunity from lawsuits challenging his official actions as Defense secretary. Chief Judge Hogan has scheduled two hours of argument on the dismissal request.

The five Iraqi citizens and four Afghan citizens identified in the suit claim that they were subject to beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation, confinement in a wooden box, sleep deprivation, mock executions, and stress positions, the suit says.

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