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Federal appeals court rehears case of 'enemy combatant' held in US

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] heard oral arguments Wednesday in an en banc rehearing of its earlier ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] that the military cannot seize and imprison civilians lawfully residing in the United States and detain them as "enemy combatants" [JURIST news archive]. In June, a three-judge panel rejected government arguments that the president was authorized to order the military seizure of Illinois resident and Qatari native Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri [Brennan Center case materials] from civilian custody and hold him indefinitely in a military jail without charge and the court subsequently issued an order [PDF text; JURIST report] granting a Department of Justice (DOJ) petition [petition, PDF; JURIST report] to re-hear the case en banc. DOJ principal deputy solicitor general Gregory C. Garre argued Wednesday that the government was given broad authority by Congress to arrest individuals suspected of al Qaeda association. Al-Marri's lawyer countered that enemy combatant status does not apply outside of combat situations, and asked the court to uphold the panel's decision.

Al-Marri was arrested at his home in Peoria, Illinois by civilian authorities, and was indicted for alleged domestic crimes in 2001. In 2003, President George W. Bush declared him an enemy combatant [CNN report] and ordered the attorney general to transfer custody of al-Marri to the defense secretary, claiming inherent authority to hold him indefinitely. The DOJ had argued that the federal courts lacked jurisdiction [JURIST report] over al-Marri's claims under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text], but the court rejected that argument. The court is expected to rule in the next few weeks. AP has more.

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