June 11, 2007

Court overrules Bush 'enemy combatant' policy

Midwest Peace & Justice Applauds Civil Rights Victory ~*~Judges: President may not detain legal U.S. resident without charging him

RICHMOND, Va. - The Bush administration cannot legally detain a legal U.S. resident it believes is an al-Qaida sleeper agent without charging him, a divided federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The case involves a Qatari national and suspected al-Qaida operative who is the only person being held in the United States as an "enemy combatant."

In the 2-1 decision, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that the federal Military Commissions Act does not strip Ali al-Marri of his constitutional rights to challenge his accusers in court. It ruled the government must allow him to be released from military detention.

In a major setback for the administration, the appellate panel ruled that the government's evidence afforded no basis to treat al-Marri as an "enemy combatant."

"The government cannot subject al-Marri to indefinite military detention. For in the United States, the military cannot seize and imprison civilians — let alone imprison them indefinitely," Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote.

Al-Marri has been held in a U.S. Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., for about four years without any charges.

The ruling sent the case back to a federal judge in South Carolina with instructions to direct Defense Secretary Robert Gates to release al-Marri from military custody within a reasonable period of time.

The government can transfer al-Marri to civilian authorities to face criminal charges, initiate deportation proceedings, hold him as a witness in a grand jury proceeding or detain him for a limited period of time under the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law.

Jose Padilla, another U.S. citizen, was held as an enemy combatant in a Navy brig for 3 1/2 years before he was hastily added to an existing case in Miami in November 2005, a few days before a U.S. Supreme Court deadline for Bush administration briefs on the question of the president’s powers to continue holding him in military prison without charge.

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