Man Indicted on Terrorism Charges
- Lone `Enemy Combatant' Held in U.S. Facing Charges That He Helped al Qaeda
Al-Marri Indicted on Terrorism Charges
By JASON RYAN and PIERRE THOMAS
In this 2001 handout photo from the Peoria County Sheriff's Office,
Ali Saleh Kahlah al Marri, former graduate student at Bradley
University in Peoria, Illinois, is photographed in this booking photo
at Peoria County Sheriff's Office in Illinois. The Justice Department
has charged al Marri, the only alleged enemy combatant held on U.S.
soil, in the federal court system.
(Peoria County Sheriff's Office/Getty Images)
A federal grand jury in Peoria, Ill., has charged the lone "enemy
combatant" held on U.S. soil with two counts of providing material
support to al Qaeda, paving the way for his release from military
custody into the criminal justice system.
The indictment against Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, filed Thursday and
unsealed today, marks a dramatic shift from the Bush administration's
stance that the United States could indefinitely detain terror
suspects caught in the U.S. without filing charges.
The indictment "shows our resolve to protect the American people and
prosecute alleged terrorists to the full extent of the law," Attorney
General Eric Holder said in a statement.
"In this administration," he continued, "we will hold accountable
anyone who attempts to do harm to Americans, and we will do so in a
manner consistent with our values."
Asked why the two-page indictment was lacking specific details of
al-Marri's alleged support to al Qaeda, Justice Department spokesman
Dean Boyd said, "We will introduce our evidence at trial and intend to
prove our case there. We look forward to prosecuting this case in the
criminal justice system and presenting the evidence for a jury to
decide al-Marri's guilt or innocence."
One day before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, al-Marri and his family
legally entered the United States so he could begin a master's degree
program at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. He had received a
bachelor's degree from the same school in 1991.
The U.S. government alleged that he repeatedly attempted to contact an
al Qaeda leader suspected of financing the Sept. 11 attacks as part of
his alleged involvement as a "sleeper agent," laying in wait to take
part in a suspected second-wave attack.
At the time of al-Marri's arrest, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft
compared him to Mohammed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the group
of hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.
The government's argument at the time was that the priority was to get
information out of al-Marri about potential upcoming terrorist plots,
as opposed to trying him for alleged crimes.
Al-Marri as an `Enemy Combatant'
Al-Marri, who is a dual citizen of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, has been in
U.S. custody since his December 2001 arrest but was transferred to the
U.S. Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., in 2003 after President Bush
declared him an enemy combatant.
Bush had signed executive order declaring that al-Marri was "closely
associated" with al Qaeda and had "engaged in conduct that constituted
hostile and warlike acts."
The Justice Department had previously charged al-Marri with credit
card fraud, false statements and identity fraud, but the government
dropped those charges before his transfer to the navy brig.
After the Justice Department secured the latest indictment against
al-Marri Thursday, President Obama directed Secretary of Defense
Robert Gates to transfer al-Marri into federal law enforcement custody.
Before the transfer takes place, however, the Supreme Court must rule
on a motion to be filed later today by the DOJ Solicitor General's office.
The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case challenging
al-Marri's detention this April, but the Justice Department will ask
the court to dismiss the case because of the indictment.
But American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jonathan Hafetz, who is
representing al-Marri in the Supreme Court case challenging his
detention, said yesterday that it is "vital" that the Supreme Court
case move forward "because it must be made clear once and for all that
indefinite military detention of persons arrested in the U.S. is
illegal and that this will never happen again."
The ACLU claims that while in custody at the naval brig, the U.S.
government held al-Marri incommunicado for more than a year and
subjected him to torture and other abuses.
Hafetz, who met with al-Marri Wednesday, did acknowledge yesterday
that the government's decision to seek charges against al-Marri is "an
important step in restoring the rule of law."
Al-Marri Says He Wants a `Fair Trial'
The move to charge al-Marri was widely expected in the legal
community, in part because of the unique and narrow aspects of his
case he is the only legal resident alien who is in detention in the
U.S. without charges against him.
The Obama administration had asked the Supreme Court for more time to
file papers in the case while it decided how it would proceed against
In a report in The New Yorker published earlier this week, al-Marri
said through his lawyers that he is "not asking to be taken at my word
and to be released, although I very much want to go home to my family."
He continued, saying that what he does want is "to be treated like
every other person in the United States who is accused of a crime,
including terrorism, and to be given a fair trial in an American court."
ABC News' Jan Crawford Greenburg and Ariane de Vogue contributed to
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
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