Continued Detention of Marri Is Ordered

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 19, 2009

A federal magistrate ordered alleged sleeper agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri detained on conspiracy and terrorism charges yesterday, setting the stage for a trial that could explore al-Qaeda's plans after the devastating terrorist strikes in the United States more than seven years ago.

At a proceeding in Charleston, S.C., Justice Department counterterrorism prosecutor Michael J. Mullaney urged court officials to declare Marri a flight risk and a danger to the community. Authorities say Marri arrived in the United States on Sept. 10, 2001, under false pretenses and "under the command and control of al-Qaeda."

Defense attorney Andrew J. Savage III implored the judge to release Marri, who spent 5 1/2 years in a U.S. naval brig before being indicted by a grand jury late last month. To make his case, Savage called several witnesses, including his own wife, to testify about Marri's character and his religious devotion.

Judge Robert Carr disagreed, reasoning that Marri's lawyers had not met a high legal bar. His order clears the way for Marri's transfer to Peoria, Ill., where he is scheduled to appear in court Monday for arraignment.

Marri had been the only remaining enemy combatant on U.S. soil, and his case has been closely watched by national security experts and civil libertarians.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told reporters yesterday that the decision to charge Marri in a U.S. court is "reflective of the changed approach this administration has taken."

Holder said detailed reviews are underway of the roughly 240 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to determine how many of them can be tried in American courts. He said he expects that a government task force will reach that conclusion in at least some of the cases.

Authorities are deliberating what to do with 17 Uighurs, Chinese Muslims who have been ordered released from the Cuban facility but who could face persecution if they are transferred back to their homeland.

European Union officials this week called on the Obama administration to resettle at least some of the Uighurs in U.S. communities that have offered to help the detainees resume normal lives, an option that Holder kept open yesterday.

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