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WASHINGTON - A US rights group Thursday appealed to a court in the case of former prisoners in Iraq and

They are not optimistic to win the case

ACLU appeals to court in case of former prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan who accuse ex-defense secretary of being to blame for their torture.

 

 Afghanistan who accuse ex-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld of being to blame for their torture.

The case, which dates back to December 2006, was thrown out by a federal court in March 2007 which found that Rumsfeld and other senior military figures have immunity from such charges.

On Thursday, three judges at an appeals court in the District of Columbia signaled that the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stood little chance of winning.

"You can't prevail," said Judge David Sentelle during a hearing which did not re-examine the facts of the torture.

The earlier hearing had found that such torture cases were "lamentable" and "appalling" even though it threw out the case, the ACLU said.

"We are not optimistic, we continue to fight on to speak up and to hold people responsible," said ACLU lawyer Cecillia Wang, addressing a handful of activists in front of the courtroom.

The protesters were dressed in black hoods with orange jumpsuits, modeled on the uniforms once worn at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The appeals court is due to publish its decision at a later date.

In the case of Ali v. Rumsfeld, the ACLU alleges that nine prisoners, who were later released without charge, "were beaten, tortured, sexually abused" between 2002 and 2004 in American prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ACLU alleges that Rumsfeld and members of the military hierarchy knew of such practices and are thus personally responsible for the prisoners' treatment.

It further charges that the men's constitutional rights were violated, even though they are not American citizens and the acts were committed outside the United States.

Rumsfeld has argued however that he had "qualified immunity because it was not clearly established that non-citizens outside the United States had a remedy against US government officials who caused their torture," the ACLU said.

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