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Federal appeals court questions Bush power to designate enemy combatants

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] heard oral arguments Thursday regarding the government's power to designate "enemy combatants" and subject them to military detention without charge. The case centers on Ali al-Marri [Brennan Center case materials], an Illinois student who has been detained since December 2001. A year and a half after al-Marri's arrest, in May 2003, he was charged with credit card fraud and lying to the FBI [complaint]. Shortly before his trial, however, President Bush declared him an enemy combatant [CNN report] and had him removed to the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina. Al-Marri has alleged cruel and inhumane treatment [JURIST report] in the Charleston facility.

The oral arguments in Richmond were characterized by piercing questions from the judges over when someone can be arrested in the US, declared an enemy combatant and subjected to military detention. Judge Dianna Gribbon Motz suggested that criminal prosecution would be more appropriate in al-Marri's case. A decision from the court is expected soon. The New York Times has more.

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