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U.S. charges Al-Marri, seeks end of Court case

A federal grand jury in Peoria, Ill., has charged a Qatari national held in the U.S. with terrorism crimes, and the Justice Department said Friday it will ask the Supreme Court to dismiss the prisoner’s pending appeal, now set for a hearing April 27.  The two-page indictment, unsealed Friday, can be found here. It makes two charges against Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, held for more than five years in a U.S. Navy brig in South Carolina. A Justice Department news release is here.  The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Al-Marri, issued this press release.

In the pending Supreme Court case, Al-Marri challenges the President’s authority to seize and hold without charges an individual lawfully living in the U.S. (Al-Marri v. Spagone, 08-368). Al-Marri is the only individual being held inside the U.S. as an “enemy combatant,” under a designation by former President Bush.

The Department said the Solicitor General’s office would move, probably later Friday, to have Al-Marri’s petition dismissed in the wake of the indictment. But Jonathan Hafetz, Al-Marri’s lead lawyer, said: “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 gtrial. 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.”

Andrew Savage, another of Al-Marri’s lawyers, said that “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.”

The two-count indictment, returned Thursday and made public Friday, charged Al-Marri with providing “material support” to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and with a conspiracy to provide such support.  It said specifically that the type of support he is accused of providing was “personnel.” That was not further explained.  If convicted of both charges, the Justice Department said, Al-Marri could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on each count.

Shortly after President Obama took office last month, he ordered a review of Al-Marri’s case.  After obtaining the indictment, the President ordered the Pentagon to transfer Al-Marri from the Navy brig in Charleston to the Justice Department, for placement in a civilian prison.  The transfer would take place, the Department said, after the Supreme Court acted on the planned government motion to dismiss.  (The President’s transfer order is here.)