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Federal appeals court reinstates Padilla conspiracy charge

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] reinstated a conspiracy charge [PDF opinion] against alleged terrorist Jose Padilla [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Tuesday, reversing a lower court decision [JURIST report] that the charge duplicated the other two counts against Padilla and his two co-defendants. The reinstated charge, conspiracy to "murder, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country," carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, unlike the other two charges [JURIST report]. The court rejected the argument that the charges were multiplicitous and in violation of the US Constitution's double jeopardy clause [LII backgrounder], holding that different proof was required to establish each count. Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat said in his opinion: "While these three charges are interrelated, they are not interdependent," as Padilla could theoretically be found to have violated the statutes of one count without having violated statutes of the others. AP has more.

US authorities initially suspected Padilla, a US citizen, of planning to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States and classified him in 2002 as an enemy combatant [JURIST news archive] subject to indefinite detention. Padilla was later indicted [JURIST report] in 2005 on unrelated terrorism charges. He was transferred to civilian custody [JURIST report] in January 2006 and subsequently pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges. His trial is scheduled to begin April 16.

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