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 resident.
"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 court.
Kar”s cameraman, Farshid Faraji, was also released, Rosenbaum said.