For Immediate Release
February 1, 2007
Susan Lehman, Brennan Center for Justice, 212–998–6318
Mike Webb, Brennan Center for Justice, 212–998–6746
Crucial Court Hearing Challenges Congress’ Power to Deprive Individuals of Habeas Corpus Rights
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – Today, for first time in court, lawyers challenged Congress’ power to deprive individuals in the U.S. of habeas corpus rights pursuant to the Military Commissions Act. Lawyers for Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who has been detained without charges since December 2001, argued the U.S. government’s detention policy – and the premises on which it is based—violate the U.S. Constitution. Government lawyers responded that the president is acting within his powers and that, due to passage of the Military Commissions Act, the circuit court of appeals lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.
A decision is expected soon.
After presenting arguments, Brennan Center attorney Jonathan Hafetz released the following statement:
“Today’s case is just one element of the government’s wrong-headed strategy in fighting terrorism. Instead of safeguarding the country, the Bush Administration continues to undermine our liberties and the Constitution by depriving people of Habeas Corpus, secretly detaining and imprisoning legal residents and citizens, creating sham military tribunals and expanding the powers of the presidency above and beyond the other co-equal branches20of government. We believe their actions are at odds with the core American values of justice and liberty and that is why former Attorney General Janet Reno and other former prosecutors joined our case in opposing the government’s position.
“Al-Marri was a legal resident of the US when he was seized in Peoria, IL in December 2001. His case was scheduled to go to trial in 2003, but stopped when his defense attorney revealed that evidence had been seized from al-Marri’s home without a warrant. President Bush then took the extraordinary step of designating him an enemy combatant and Mr. al-Marri was transferred to a military brig in South Carolina where he has been kept in solitary confinement ever since.
“The government’s position in this case is stunning. If they are right, they can pick up any immigrant in this country, lock them in a military jail, and hold the keys to the courthouse. If this case stands, the United States could effectively disappear people. This is exactly what separates a country that is democratic and committed to the rule of law from a country that is a police state. We hope the Fourth Circuit Court will rule in our favor.”
Jonathan Hafetz is available to discuss this case. Please contact the Brennan Center for Justice to arrange an interview.