Breaking: al-Marri to be tried in civilian court
by JJE, Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 02:11:14 PM EST
According to the Washington Post and the ACLU, the Justice Deparment is preparing criminal charges against Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari national and the only individual designated an enemy combatant currently currently held on U.S. soil.
He had initially been arrested on charges of fraud and making false statements to the FBI, but right before his civilian trial was to commence, President Bush designated him an enemy combatant and had him transferred to a Navy brig. The basis for the designation was a rather far-fetched theory that al-Marri had engaged in a scheme to use financial information to wreak economic havoc (it looks like his efforts would have been redundant).
al-Marri challenged the legality of his detention, and the conservative Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, held in a 5-4 decision that he was not entitled to a civilian trial if the government's allegations were true, but that he had insufficient opportunity to challenge those allegations.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear al-Marri's petition late last year.
While it is good that al-Marri is going to have his day in civilian court, rather than a military tribunal, this move is redolent of what the Bush DoJ did with Jose Padilla, who was indicted on civilian criminal charges shortly before the Supreme Court was to hold a hearing on the legality of his detention. This move will presumably moot al-Marri's petition and lead the Supreme Court to dismiss his challenge to his enemy combatant status.