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Originally published Wednesday, April 7, 2010 at 9:01 PM

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Lawsuit filed in Seattle over Guantánamo case

A Sudanese aid worker freed from Guantánamo Bay in 2007 sued U.S. government officials Wednesday over what he called his forced ...

The Associated Press

A Sudanese aid worker freed from Guantánamo Bay in 2007 sued U.S. government officials Wednesday over what he called his forced disappearance and torture.

Lawyers for Adel Hassan Hamad, 52, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle seeking damages for ongoing physical and emotional problems and compensation for lost wages and loss of reputation.

The suit names as defendants nearly two dozen current and former U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Similar cases have been filed — and dismissed — in federal court in Washington, D.C., where judges have ruled that such claims are barred by the Military Commissions Act.

Lawyers for Hamad said his case was the first brought outside of Washington, D.C.

Gwynne Skinner, a member of Hamad's legal team and a professor in the International Human Rights Clinic at Willamette University College of Law in Oregon, said the case was filed in Seattle because Gates owns property in Washington state.

She also said she hopes the judges in the 9th U.S. Circuit, which has historically been less hostile to claims brought by foreigners than the D.C. Circuit, would be willing to let Hamad's case proceed.

Hamad alleges he was a humanitarian worker based in Pakistan in 2002 when he was seized from his apartment, tortured and eventually shipped to Guantánamo. He was detained for more than five years.

Before he was returned to his native Sudan in 2007, his lawyers learned he had actually been cleared to return home two years earlier, the lawsuit said.

The Defense Department did not immediately return a call seeking comment on behalf of Gates, and a spokesman for Rumsfeld did not immediately return a message left late Wednesday.

Hamad's case drew a well-organized campaign for his release — including a YouTube video featuring Martin Sheen.

"He's struggling," Skinner said of Hamad. "He's struggling to find work and support his family."

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Skinner said Hamad's case was bolstered by a declaration provided last week by retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Wilkerson testified that certain officials, including Rumsfeld, "knew that they had seized and were holding innocent men at Guantánamo Bay, and that they simply refused to release them out of fear of political repercussions," Hamad's complaint states.

Skinner declined to immediately release a copy of the declaration. But she said it supports the notion that government officials knew or should have known that Hamad was innocent.

The lawsuit said Hamad has five living children, but one daughter was born shortly after he was seized and died before he was released because the family could not afford proper medical care.

The torture he alleges includes exposure to extremely cold temperature, being forced to eat rotten food and drink dirty water, and being forced to stand for three straight days without sleep or food.

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