Feds fight release of man convicted as Iraq agent

INDIANAPOLIS - A former Indiana truck driver convicted of offering to assist Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq has asked a federal judge to let him out of prison, but prosecutors say he should remain behind bars.

Shaaban Hafiz Ahmad Ali Shaaban, 61, remained in the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., on Friday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website. Prosecutors last week filed documents in federal court in Indianapolis opposing Shaaban's motion to vacate his conviction and set aside his 13-year sentence, essentially scoffing at Shaaban's claims that he and a long-lost twin brother had worked as covert agents for the U.S. government.

Shaaban, who was born in Jordan and earned a doctorate in Russia, was working as a truck driver in Greenfield, a city of about 20,000 people about 20 miles east of Indianapolis, when he was indicted in 2005. The following year, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison and stripped of his U.S. citizenship after a jury convicted him on charges that he acted as a foreign agent for Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Federal prosecutors alleged Shaaban traveled to Baghdad in late 2002 to sell Hussein's government the names of CIA operatives in Iraq for $3 million and to coordinate human shields once the U.S. invaded, but was unable to seal the deal.

Court documents say Shaaban used at least three different names, including "Joe Brown," and apparently had two wives, one Russian and the other American.

Shaaban's attorney, Bernard V. Kleinman of White Plains, N.Y., declined comment Friday, saying only that he would file a response to the government within two weeks. The U.S. attorney's office also declined comment.

In his petition, Shaaban sought to have his conviction overturned on procedural grounds and again raised what prosecutors called "the dead twin defense" -- that most of the acts he was accused of had actually been done by a twin brother from whom he was separated at birth and did not meet until both were adults. Shaaban said his twin brother, whose existence was questioned by the judge, had died in a bombing in Chechnya in May 2003.

Shaaban said members of his family overseas could have confirmed his twin brother's existence, but they were denied U.S. visas to testify at his trial.

Shaaban's petition also argued that he was needlessly placed under special security measures without due process. Shaaban was initially housed in the federal prison at Terre Haute, but was later moved to the Colorado Supermax prison. The "super maximum security" prison houses some of the nation's most notorious criminals, including Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski.

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