Judge Deals Blow to Case of Alleged Enemy Combatant

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

A federal magistrate judge yesterday recommended rejecting a petition by the sole remaining enemy combatant being held on U.S. soil, finding that Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri had not offered persuasive evidence rebutting the government's allegations against him.

Marri, a Qatari national, has been held in a military brig in South Carolina since being accused in June 2003 of being an al-Qaeda "sleeper" agent sent to the United States to mount attacks after the Sept. 11, 2001, jetliner hijackings. Marri has filed a petition in federal court alleging that he is being held unlawfully and deprived of rights of due process.

But in a sharply worded 16-page report, Magistrate Judge Robert C. Carr of the U.S. District Court of South Carolina upbraided Marri for declining to address detailed allegations contained in a declassified government report outlining his alleged links to al-Qaeda.

"The petitioner's refusal . . . is either a sophomoric approach to a serious issue, or worse, an attempt to subvert the judicial process and flout due process," Carr wrote. "The petitioner has squandered his opportunity to be heard by purposely not participating in a meaningful way."

Although Carr's recommendation is not binding -- a higher-ranking judge will issue a final ruling -- it counts as a significant victory for the government, which had opposed releasing details of the allegations against Marri.

Marri, an immigrant who enrolled at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., remains the last person in the United States designated an enemy combatant. A second combatant, Yaser Esam Hamdi, has been deported to Saudi Arabia, while a third, U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, has had his case transferred to a criminal court.

-- Dan Eggen

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