Tuesday, November 14, 2006

US: Immigrants May Be Held Indefinitely

US: Immigrants May Be Held Indefinitely
Nov 13, 9:53 PM (ET)



Immigrants arrested in the United States may be heldindefinitely on suspicion of terrorism and may not challenge theirimprisonment in civilian courts, the Bush administration said Monday,opening a new legal front in the fight over the rights of detainees.In court documents filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals inRichmond, Va., the Justice Department said a new anti-terrorism law beingused to hold detainees in Guantanamo Bay also applies to foreigners capturedand held in the United States.

Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was arrested in 2001 whilestudying in the United States. He has been labeled an "enemy combatant," adesignation that, under a law signed last month, strips foreigners of theright to challenge their detention in federal courts.

That law is being used to argue the Guantanamo Bay cases, but Al-Marrirepresents the first detainee inside the United States to come under the newlaw. Aliens normally have the right to contest their imprisonment, such aswhen they are arrested on immigration violations or for other crimes.

"It's pretty stunning that any alien living in the United States can bedenied this right," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for Al-Marri.

"It means any non-citizen, and there are millions of them, can be whisked off atnight and be put in detention."

The new law says that enemy combatants will be tried before militarycommissions, not a civilian judge or jury, and establishes different rulesof evidence in the cases. It also prohibits detainees from challenging theirdetention in civilian court.In a separate court filing in Washington on Monday, the Justice Departmentdefended that law as constitutional and necessary.

Government attorneys said foreign fighters arrested as part of an overseasmilitary action have no constitutional rights and are being afforded morelegal rights than ever.

In its short filing in the Al-Marri case, however, the Justice Departmentdoesn't mention that Al-Marri is being held at a military prison in SouthCarolina - a fact that his attorneys say affords him the same rights asanyone else being held in the United States.

The Justice Department noted only that the new law applies to all enemycombatants "regardless of the location of the detention."The Bush administration maintains that al-Marri is an al-Qaida sleeperagent. The Defense Department ordered a review of Al-Marri's status as anenemy combatant be conducted if, as requested, the case is thrown out ofcourt.

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