ACLU Urges Supreme Court To Review Landmark Indefinite Detention Case
Group Challenges Sweeping Executive Power Claims In Al-Marri Case
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
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/
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.