For Immediate Release
Government Brings Federal Charges Against ACLU Client Ali Al-Marri, Only "Enemy Combatant" Held on US Soil
Supreme Court Should Reject Abuse of Executive Power in Al-Marri's Case, Says ACLU
PEORIA, Il - Federal
prosecutors announced criminal charges today against Ali Saleh Kahlah
al-Marri, the only individual to be designated an "enemy combatant" by
the Bush administration being held in military detention on U.S. soil.
Al-Marri was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Central
District of Illinois and charged with two counts of material support
for terrorism. The American Civil Liberties Union represents al-Marri
in his case before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging his illegal
designation as an "enemy combatant."
"This indictment is an important
step toward restoring the rule of law and is exactly what should happen
when the government suspects an individual of terrorist acts. This case
is now finally where it belongs: in a legitimate court that can fairly
determine whether Mr. al-Marri is guilty of a crime," said Jonathan
Hafetz, attorney with the ACLU National Security Project and lead
counsel in al-Marri's Supreme Court case.
Al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident and
Qatari national, has been detained in solitary confinement at a Navy
brig in South Carolina since June 2003.
"A system in which the president can
designate any citizen or legal resident an enemy combatant and lock him
up for years without charges is completely at odds with the
Constitution and flies in the face of our nation's fundamental values,"
said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "The Obama
administration must unequivocally state that it will not repeat the
abuse of executive authority that occurred in this case to imprison
other U.S. citizens and legal residents without charges or trial."
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 on charges of credit card fraud and making false statements to the
FBI, but the case was halted on the eve of trial when President Bush
took the extraordinary step of designating him an "enemy combatant" and
transferring him to a South Carolina military brig. At the brig,
al-Marri was detained incommunicado for 16 months and subjected to
torture and other abuse.
"We are pleased that after more than
seven years of detention, Mr. al-Marri will finally have his day in
court. Mr. al-Marri is reviewing the charges and will respond in
court," said Andrew Savage, one of al-Marri's criminal defense
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 ruling in a narrowly divided decision. In the pending
case of Al-Marri v. Spagone, the ACLU has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the full appellate court decision.
"Despite this indictment, the Obama
administration has yet to renounce the government's asserted authority
to imprison legal residents and U.S. citizens without charge or trial,"
said Hafetz. "We will continue to pursue Mr. al-Marri's case before the
Supreme Court to make sure that no American citizen or lawful resident
will ever again be subjected to such treatment. It is important that
the Court hears Mr. al-Marri's case and rejects, once and for all, the
notion that any president has the sweeping authority to deprive
individuals living in the United States of their most basic
constitutional rights by designating them 'enemy combatants.'"
Attorneys in Al-Marri v. Spagone
are Hafetz, Steven R. Shapiro, Jameel Jaffer and Hina Shamsi of the
ACLU; 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.;
Mark A. Berman of the law firm Hartmann, Doherty, Rosa, Berman &
Bulbulia LLC; Aziz Huq and Emily Berman of the Brennan Center for
Justice at NYU School of Law; and Sidney S. Rosdeitcher of the law firm
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, and
The ACLU's Supreme Court brief is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/
More information about Al-Marri v. Spagone, including legal documents, is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.