CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Attorneys for alleged enemy
combatant Jose Padilla argued yesterday that the president has no
authority to order anyone held indefinitely without charges, nor
does any federal law allow such detentions.

Padilla, a U.S. citizen whom the government alleges was part of
an al-Qaida plot to set off a radiological bomb, is being held at
the brig at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station.

“The Constitution grants the president no power to detain
a citizen seized in a civilian setting in the United States and to
imprison him, indefinitely and without charge, in a military
brig,” the lawyers said in a court filing. “No statute
authorizes such detention.”

The motion asks that Padilla be freed while the government
decides whether to bring criminal charges.

Padilla, who was born in New York City, was arrested in Chicago
after the 2001 terror attacks. He was later designated an enemy
combatant, brought to the brig and prevented from challenging his
detention.

His attorneys sued, and last year the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in New York ordered him released unless the government
charged him with a crime.

The U.S. Supreme Court, without ruling on the merits of the
case, decided the New York court had no jurisdiction over the brig
commander. The lawsuit was refiled in Charleston.

The government has until late next month to respond to
yesterday’s motion, and a judge will hear arguments in early
January.

The defense linked Padilla’s case to that of Yaser Hamdi,
another so-called enemy combatant held in U.S. solitary confinement
for nearly three years after being captured on an Afghan
battlefield.

Hamdi, who was born in Louisiana, was released last week after
the Justice Department said he no longer posed a threat to the
United States and no longer had any intelligence value.

The Supreme Court had ruled earlier that Hamdi should be allowed
to argue for his freedom.

“A state of war is not a blank check for the president
when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens,”
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the Hamdi case.

An order by President Bush in November 2001 allows captives to
be detained as “enemy combatants” if they were members
of al-Qaida, engaged in or aided terrorism or harbored terrorists.
The designation may also be applied if it is “the interest of
the United States” to hold an individual during
hostilities.

In their motion, Padilla’s attorneys argue “the
indefinite military detention of citizens arrested in the United
States based on suspected wrongdoing is entirely unprecedented in
American history.”

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