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Federal prosecutors file additional charges against Michigan militia members

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday filed additional charges [superseding indictment, PDF] against four members of the "Christian warrior" militia, Hutaree [militia website; CNN backgrounder], alleging possession of machine guns and unregistered rifles, as well as use of firearms during a violent crime. Nine members of the militia were originally indicted [text, PDF; JURIST report] in March 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. Four members of the militia, including one of the men named in the new indictment, were released on bail [JURIST report] last month. Judge Victoria Roberts of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] originally granted bail [JURIST report] to all nine militia suspects, but the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] granted an emergency stay [JURIST report] blocking their release. A hearing is scheduled to be held next week to determine if the five remaining militia members should be released on bail. A lawyer for one of the defendants has indicated that he believes the additional charges were filed in order to influence the bail hearing [AP report].

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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