updated 11/13/2006 4:13:45 PM ET 2006-11-13T21:13:45

The Supreme Court refused Monday to intervene to keep an American facing a death sentence in Iraq from being handed over to authorities in Baghdad.

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Muhammad Munaf has been in military custody in Iraq since last year. He was sentenced to death last month by an Iraqi judge for his role in the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad. He claimed his trial was flawed and his confession was coerced.

Munaf wanted justices to order military authorities to keep him under their control until U.S. courts resolve whether U.S. forces can turn over Americans who are suspected terrorists to the Iraqi government.

The court gave no explanation for its order Monday denying Munaf's request.

Two federal courts in Washington previously refused to intervene in the case, saying they lacked authority because the Iraqi-born Munaf, who became a U.S. citizen in 2000, was being held by coalition military forces, not by the U.S. military alone.

Whether the U.S. military or coalition forces have custody of Munaf is at the heart of a legal fight over the fate of American citizens being held in Iraq. Critics say it is disingenuous because the prisons that Munaf and others are being held in are operated by the U.S. military.

The appeals court in Washington is considering the similar case of Shawqi Omar, an American citizen accused of being a top al-Qaida lieutenant in Iraq. A different federal judge blocked Omar's transfer and the appeals court, which heard arguments in September, has yet to rule.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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