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Last ‘Enemy Combatant’ on U.S. Soil to be Tried in Federal Court

Federal prosecutors are preparing to charge Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, the only designated “enemy combatant” held on U.S. soil, in a U.S. federal court, according to The Washington Post. He is expected to be charged with providing material support to Al Qaeda.

That would likely put an end to al-Marri’s Supreme Court case, as we had predicted might happen. As I’ve reported previously, al-Marri was a lawful U.S. resident living in Peoria, Ill. with his five children when he was picked up by U.S. authorities, interrogated and locked up in a Navy brig in South Carolina. He is the last detainee to be held in the United States — as opposed to at Guantanamo Bay — without charge or trial.

The Obama administration now appears ready to remedy that by bringing formal criminal charges against him in federal court.

Here’s what Jonathan Hafetz of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been representing al-Marri, had to say about The Post’s report this afternoon:

If true, the decision to charge al-Marri is an important step in restoring the rule of law and is what should have happened seven years ago when he was first arrested. But it is vital that the Supreme Court case go 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.

If the government charges al-Marri in a federal court, however, that will moot the issue — whether the United States can hold someone indefinitely without charge on American soil – in his habeas corpus case before the Supreme Court. That would ordinarily deprive the court of jurisdiction to consider the issue.

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