In a first for a former Guantanamo captive freed by a federal judge, a Syrian man now living in Europe is suing the U.S. government for damages from what he calls a "Kafkaesque nightmare."
The 44-page lawsuit by Abdul Razak al-Janko, 32, described a decade-long odyssey of detention — first in Taliban-era Afghanistan, where he was tortured as an alleged pro-American Israeli spy, and later in U.S. military prisons that ignored or misdiagnosed his history as a torture victim.
In addition, Janko alleges that U.S. soldiers urinated on him on his May 2002 arrival at Guantanamo, where he was subsequently subjected to solitary confinement and sleep deprivation and beaten by a rapid-reaction force. He said he attempted to commit suicide 17 times in despair.
"We're reviewing the suit and will respond in court," said Dean Boyd, spokesman for the Justice Department's National Security Division.
Federal courts rebuffed an earlier bid by former Guantanamo captives to sue the Bush administration for compensation, a case called Rasul vs. Rumsfeld. That case was brought by four men who were released years ago through a diplomatic deal between the United States and Britain.
Janko, however, is armed with a June 22, 2009, victory in his habeas corpus petition. It is one of 38 wins so far since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2008 that the Constitution covers a Guantanamo captive's right to file false imprisonment petitions in federal courts.
Judge Richard Leon, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote in his 13-page decision that the Syrian's detention as a war prisoner "defies common sense" in part because he had been held and tortured by the Taliban or al-Qaida in the 18 months prior to his capture by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Janko was released four months later and, according to the lawsuit, seeks damages to cover his medical expenses from physical and psychological damage in U.S. custody as well as punitive damages.
It says he "still has scars and other evidence of this physical torture and ill-treatment such as loss of bodily functions and inability to sleep."
The lawsuit was filed by attorney Paul L. Hoffman of Venice, Calif., who is seeking a jury trial in the same Washington courthouse where Leon ordered Janko set free.
The lawsuit doesn't specify where Janko went but says he was released on Oct. 7, 2009.