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U.S. judges can't pull Americans from Iraqi courts

Thursday's Supreme Court ruling involved men accused of kidnapping-for-ransom schemes.

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Federal judges may not exert the power of the US courts to prevent the American military in Iraq from turning a US citizen over to Iraqi courts for criminal prosecution.

In a 9-to-0 decision announced on Thursday, the US Supreme Court ruled against two American citizens seeking to prevent their prosecution in Iraqi courts for alleged crimes.

The high court said that even though American citizens enjoy a constitutional right to test the legality of their detention before a neutral judge, American judges do not have jurisdiction to hear such habeas corpus petitions when the detention takes place overseas at the request of a sovereign country.

"Those who commit crimes within a sovereign's territory may be transferred to that sovereign's government for prosecution," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the court.

The ruling comes in two consolidated cases of US citizens accused of involvement in separate plots to kidnap and ransom foreigners in Iraq. Both say they are innocent.

In one case, Munaf v. Geren, the US citizen-detainee was turned over to Iraqi authorities and convicted. In the other, Geren v. Omar, a federal judge ordered US forces not to turn the American over for trial.

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., later ruled that the federal courts retained jurisdiction over the American who had not yet been tried by the Iraqis. But the same appeals court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to consider the case of the citizen-detainee who had already been tried and convicted by the Iraqis.

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