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Federal appeals court blocks release of Michigan militia suspects

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Thursday issued an emergency stay blocking the release of nine individuals accused of plotting to overthrow the US government as part of the Hutaree militia [website; CNN backgrounder]. Judge Victoria Roberts of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] had granted bail [JURIST report] Monday, ruling that the eight men and one woman must relinquish weapons and weapons permits, remain confined to their homes, and be kept under electronic surveillance. Roberts later suspended the release at the prosecution's request but lifted her stay Wednesday evening, causing prosecutors to seek an emergency stay from the Sixth Circuit. The defense must respond by 5:00 PM ET Thursday. The nine members have been indicted [JURIST report] on charges of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence in connection with a plan to kill Michigan law enforcement officers.

Militia groups such as the Hutaree are reportedly on the rise in the US. A recent report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center [advocacy website] suggests that a lack of regulation on the Internet [JURIST report] is fueling this increased prevalence. A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) [advocacy website; JURIST comment], released last year, noted that these groups are making a comeback [JURIST report] after declining in number for several years. The SPLC said that such groups are generally anti-tax, anti-immigration, and increasingly racially motivated since the election of the country's first African-American president, Barack Obama. The SPLC also warned that these groups could soon pose a security risk to the country, quoting one official as saying "[a]ll it's lacking is a spark. I think it's only a matter of time before you see threats and violence."

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