Former Somali prime minister, currently living in U.S., may face war crimes lawsuit

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Mohamed Ali Samantar, whose name will be brought before the Supreme Court this week as that of a war criminal in his native Somalia, has a hard time getting up from the couch in his tidy split-level home in Fairfax City.

Dressed in a pressed charcoal-colored suit for his first interview in many years, Samantar, 74, stiffly hauls himself halfway up from the threadbare brocade sofa. Some of his 13 sons and daughters rush in to help. He stays them with a single gruff word. Slowly, the man who was defense minister and prime minister of the last functioning regime in Somalia stands up on his own.

His five accusers in a civil lawsuit call him a war criminal, a monster living out his golden years with impunity in a quiet suburban neighborhood. This man, they say, was responsible for the unjust torture that they or members of their families suffered in the 1980s. They say Samantar administered a regime of repeated rape, abduction, summary execution and years-long imprisonment in solitary confinement. The accusers want someone, finally, to be held accountable for the well-documented human rights atrocities of that era.

Samantar waves his hand impatiently. The accusations, he says in a deep, throaty voice, are "baseless allegations, with no foundation in truth."

They come from a time when the country was in the midst of the first of many brutal civil wars, pitting north against south, clan against clan. A time when no one's hands were clean. "I served the people rightly and justly," he says. "I always respected the rule of law. I am no monster. I am not going to eat anyone."...

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