U.S.: Padilla's indictment alters status for detention

Mark Sherman Associated Press Dec. 10, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - U.S. citizen Jose Padilla's legal challenge to his three-year stay in a military jail without charges should be dismissed because he now stands accused of a crime, the Justice Department told a federal Appeals Court on Friday.

The filing with the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., is an attempt by the administration to avoid a Supreme Court showdown over its controversial policy of detaining U.S. terror suspects indefinitely and without charges.

The government refused to rule out that it could reclassify Padilla in the future as an "enemy combatant," which would again deprive him of most rights granted to criminal defendants.

"In that unlikely event, petitioner would have ample opportunity to challenge any such military custody at that time," the government said in legal papers signed by Solicitor General Paul Clement.

Padilla's lawyers declined to comment Friday, but they have said they want the Supreme Court to rule on the administration's power to detain him indefinitely without charges, regardless of his status.

The government wants the Appeals Court to approve Padilla's transfer from military custody to a federal civilian jail in Miami, where he was indicted last month on charges that he was part of a North American terrorist support network that sent money and fighters abroad.

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