By Bernard Vaughan and Daniel Wiessner NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. animal rights group on Monday filed what it said is the first lawsuit seeking to establish the "legal personhood" of chimpanzees. The non-profit Nonhuman Rights Project asked a New York state court to declare a 26-year-old chimp named Tommy "a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned." The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Tommy's "detention" in a "small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed" in central New York is unlawful and demands his immediate release to a primate sanctuary. Chimpanzees "possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they're found in human beings," Steven Wise, the president of Nonhuman Rights Project, told Reuters. "There's no reason why they should not be protected when they're found in chimpanzees," he added.
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