|The US administration argues that Rumsfeld cannot be sued personally for his official conduct [EPA]
A federal judge in the US has ruled that Donald Rumsfeld, the former defence secretary, can be sued by a former military contractor who was allegedly tortured and "unjustly" imprisoned in Iraq.
Lawyers for the man, who is in his 50s, said on Thursday that their client was preparing to come home to the United States on annual leave when he was abducted by the US military and kept in detention for nine months.
Court papers filed on his behalf said he was repeatedly abused, and then suddenly released without explanation in August 2006, The Associated Press news agency reported.
Two years later, he filed suit in a US district court in Washington arguing that Rumsfeld personally approved torturous interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis and controlled his detention without access to courts, in violation of his constitutional rights.
The lawsuit said the then civilian contractor was held without justification while his family knew nothing about his whereabouts or even whether he was still alive.
Court papers filed on his behalf said he was repeatedly abused while being held at Camp Cropper, a US military facility near the Baghdad airport dedicated to holding "high-value" detainees.
Chicago attorney Mike Kanovitz, who is representing the plaintiff, said it appeared that the military wanted to keep his client behind bars so he would not tell anyone about an important contact he made with a leading religious official while helping collect intelligence in Iraq.
"The US government was not ready for the rest of the world to know about it, so they basically put him on ice,'' Kanovitz said in a telephone interview with the AP.
The government has said he was suspected of helping pass classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces get into Iraq.
But he was never charged with a crime, and he said he never broke the law and was risking his life to help his country.
Rumsfeld being shielded
The Obama administration has represented Rumsfeld through the justice department and argued that the former defence secretary cannot be sued personally for official conduct, AP reported.
The justice department also argued that a judge cannot review wartime decisions that are the constitutional responsibility of congress and the president.
And the department said the case could disclose sensitive information and distract from the war effort, and that the threat of liability would impede future military decisions.
But US District Judge James Gwin rejected those arguments and said US citizens are protected by the Constitution at home or abroad during wartime.
"The court finds no convincing reason that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously-declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad,'' Gwin wrote in a ruling issued on Tuesday.
Rumsfeld is appealing that ruling, which Gwin cited.
In many other cases brought by foreign detainees, judges have dismissed torture claims made against US officials for their personal involvement in decisions over prisoner treatment.
But this is the second time a federal judge has allowed US citizens to sue Rumsfeld personally.
Wayne R Andersen, US District Judge, said in the central US state of Illinois last year that two other Americans who worked in Iraq as contractors and were held at Camp Cropper, can pursue claims that they were tortured using Rumsfeld-approved methods.