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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 July, 2005, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
The strange case of Cyrus Kar
By Robert Greenall
BBC News

Confirmation by the Pentagon that five US citizens have been detained in Iraq on suspicion of links to insurgents has drawn attention to the highly controversial case of Iranian-born filmmaker Cyrus Kar, said to be one of the detainees.

Mr Kar's relatives say his constitutional rights have been trampled on, and that he is being kept in detention without trial despite the fact that the FBI has, they say, already cleared him of any suspicion.

Iranian-American film maker Cyrus Kar
Mr Kar was making a film in Iraq about namesake Cyrus the Great
On Wednesday a lawsuit was filed against the government for his release.

Mr Kar is described as a patriotic American who believed in spreading democracy around the world.

A former Navy Seal raised in the western US, he had gone to Iraq to film part of a documentary about an enlightened ancient Persian king.

Mr Kar's relatives say they have been able to talk to him by phone several times, and that he has been becoming increasingly angry.

All their attempts to find out through government departments, legislators and the military in Iraq about what is to happen to him have failed.

Need for caution

Mr Kar, 44, has apparently been held without trial since 17 May.

Saddam Hussein has had more due process than Cyrus Kar - this is a detention policy that was drafted by Kafka
Mark Rosenbaum
American Civil Liberties Union

He was arrested while travelling in a taxi carrying washing machine timers, which can be used as components in bombs.

The Pentagon has not officially confirmed Mr Kar's detention, citing a policy of non-disclosure of the names of detainees.

But spokesman Lt-Col John Skinner said the facts of the case indicated it was very serious.

"I think most people would agree that's somewhat suspicious," he told the Associated Press. "All of the facts need to be thoroughly questioned... These are life and death situations, and when it comes to issues of security you need to be extremely cautious."

Another unnamed official from the department told the Los Angeles Times Mr Kar would have to attend a hearing to determine whether he was a security threat.

But the conduct of the case has left Mr Kar's relatives confused. Weeks ago, they said, an FBI agent told them he had passed a polygraph test and was cleared of any charges.

"Mr Kar is now imprisoned by the United States military in Iraq without the slightest hint of legal authority," said Mark Rosenbaum, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is filing the lawsuit on his behalf.

"Saddam Hussein has had more due process than Cyrus Kar. This is a detention policy that was drafted by Kafka."


Indeed, everything that is known of Mr Kar's past seems to suggest he would be the last person to support Iraq's insurgency.

Shahrzad Folger, left, and Parvin Modarress, relatives of film maker Cyrus Kar
Relatives say Mr Kar is increasingly angry about his detention
He was brought to the US from Iran as a child, and became thoroughly immersed in American culture.

He served in the Navy for several years, and also studied business, marketing and computing. He worked for a decade at California's Silicon Valley.

Fellow film-maker Philippe Diaz described him as more right-wing than many of his colleagues, saying he "believed in everything which is American."

Recently he had become interested in film-making, and decided to make a documentary about the Persian King Cyrus the Great.

His sister, Anna Kar, said he had been ashamed of being Iranian.

"Reading about Cyrus the Great, he had felt a real sense of pride in what he thought was the real Iran - this tolerant, benevolent empire," she told the New York Times. "And he started on this quest."

It was this enthusiasm and determination which brought him to Iraq.

His final task for the film was to go to the ancient city of Babylon, which was once conquered by his regal namesake.

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