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U.S. to ask Supreme Court to block release of suspected terrorist

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

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Jose Padilla

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department Wednesday announced it would soon ask the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a federal appeals court ruling that requires the government to release designated "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla from military custody.

In a brief filed in the case of another declared enemy combatant, Yaser Esam Hamdi, the agency said it would appeal the Padilla ruling to the high court by January 20.

The brief said government lawyers would ask for expedited consideration so the case could be argued before the Supreme Court as early as April.

In the meantime, the government said it would seek a stay of the ruling in the Padilla case by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which rejected the idea that the president may order the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists in the United States without filing criminal charges against them and deny them access to lawyers.

The three-judge appeals panel ruled in December that the government may not continue to hold Padilla incommunicado in military custody as an "enemy combatant" and advised the government to transfer Padilla to civilian authorities who can bring criminal charges against him. (Full story)

Padilla, 33, a U.S. citizen suspected of plotting with al Qaeda to explode a "dirty bomb," a conventional bomb laced with radioactive material, was arrested at a Chicago airport 20 months ago and transferred to military custody after President Bush declared him a "grave danger to the national security."

"Because the Second Circuit's decision in Padilla incorrectly resolves issues of extraordinary public significance, the United States intends to file a petition for a writ of certiorari" (appeal) to the Supreme Court, the brief said.

The administration has argued the power to detain "enemy combatants" such as Padilla and Hamdi stems from the president's constitutional powers to wage war and that courts are not empowered to interfere with those national security decisions.

The government is simultaneously urging the Supreme Court to deny Hamdi's petition to reconsider a ruling by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia that supported the administration's views, while asking the high court to hear arguments over the latest, unfavorable Padilla ruling.

But in a tacit recognition the cases are related, the Justice Department told the Supreme Court it may want to hold off on deciding whether to hear the Hamdi appeal in the event the justices want to combine it with Padilla.

Defense attorneys representing Hamdi told the Supreme Court in a brief Monday that the Hamdi and Padilla appeals court decisions are "irreconcilably at odds" and that the high court should resolve the legality of the policy advanced by the Bush administration as it pursues the war on terrorism. (Full story)

Hamdi, 23, a Louisiana-born Saudi who was captured in Afghanistan fighting with the Taliban regime that gave sanctuary to al Qaeda, the group behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

He and Padilla are both being detained in navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

CNN Senior Producer Phil Hirschkorn in New York contributed to this story.


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