ACLU Urges Supreme Court To Review Landmark Indefinite Detention Case

September 19, 2008 12:00 am

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Group Challenges Sweeping Executive Power Claims In Al-Marri Case

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Bush administration’s authority to indefinitely imprison a legal resident of the United States without charge or trial. The case was filed on behalf of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who has been detained in solitary confinement at a Navy brig in South Carolina since June 2003. The ACLU is asking the Court to reverse a federal appeals court decision that gave the president sweeping power to deprive individuals in the United States of their most basic constitutional rights.

“Under the Constitution, people in this country cannot be locked up indefinitely just because the president says so. This sweeping claim of executive authority violates America’s best traditions and the rule of law,” said Jonathan Hafetz, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.

Al-Marri was first arrested in December 2001 at his home in Peoria, Illinois, where he was living with his wife and children. His case was scheduled to go to trial in July 2003, but was halted when President Bush took the extraordinary step of designating al-Marri an “enemy combatant” and transferring him to a military brig in South Carolina where he was subjected to torture and other degrading treatment. Al-Marri is the only person detained as an “enemy combatant” in the mainland United States.

In 2007, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the government cannot hold individuals arrested in this country in military detention without charge. However, in July 2008, the full appeals court overturned that decision by siding with the government’s position.

“The appeals court’s decision means that the president has the power to seize even citizens from their homes and imprison them for life without trial simply by labeling them ‘enemy combatants,'” said Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU. “It defies fundamental principles of due process that have governed the nation since its founding.”

The government continues to hold al-Marri indefinitely as an “enemy combatant” based upon uncorroborated allegations that he has ties to al-Qaeda. No evidence has been presented to sustain these allegations.

The ACLU’s Supreme Court cert petition is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/36861lgl20080919.html

Attorneys on the case are Hafetz, Shapiro and Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU; Aziz Huq and Emily Berman of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law; Andrew J. Savage, III of the law firm Savage & Savage, P.A.; John J. Gibbons and Lawrence S. Lustberg of the law firm Gibbons, P.C.; and Sidney S. Rosdeitcher of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP.

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