Possible al-Marri Indictment May Signal Shift to Treating Terror Suspects as Criminals

According to sources close to the case, the Obama Administration appears close to resolving the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, the last “illegal enemy combatant” imprisoned inside the United States. A federal grand jury is meeting today in Peoria, Illinois, and may indict al-Marri on terrorism charges, including providing material support for terrorism.

Jane Mayer writes in a New Yorker blog:

An indictment would signal a major shift in legal policy from the Bush years. It would also fulfill President Obama’s campaign pledge to restore traditional American legal practices by treating terror suspects as common criminals, rather than stripping them of standard legal rights and classifying them neither as criminal defendants nor prisoners of war.

Obama has been forced to grapple with the Marri case because the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a challenge contesting the legality of his prolonged and indefinite detention. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case this spring, requiring the Obama Administration to file papers stating its position by March 23rd. The federal grand jury in Peoria meets only once a month, so today is likely the last chance to indict Marri before the Supreme Court’s deadline. An indictment would transfer Marri from military detention into the criminal-justice system, perhaps rendering the Supreme Court case moot.

Stay tuned.

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Published on February 26, 2009

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