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USA: Jose Padilla's illegal one-year detention should be ended

Jose Padilla, a US citizen, has been held in solitary confinement on a naval base in Charleston, South Carolina, since being abruptly designated an 'enemy combatant' on 9 June 2002. He has been held without charge, trial or access to his lawyer or family.

Jose Padilla had been arrested at Chicago airport on 8 May 2002 and held as a 'material witness' by the Department of Justice during a grand jury probe into an alleged conspiracy to detonate a radioactive 'dirty bomb' on a US city.

Amnesty International said:

'Jose Padilla's rights under international law are being fundamentally violated. This case represents an unprecedented suspension of the fundamental rights of a US citizen in US custody.'

The US has designated others as 'enemy combatants,' notably Yaser Esam Hamdi, the only other US citizen currently detained indefinitely. He was arrested during the US-led war in Afghanistan in late 2001 (reportedly after surrendering to the Northern Alliance), and was originally detained in Guantánamo Bay before being transferred to the USA in April 2002 after his US nationality came to light. Yaser Esam Hamdiwas is also held incommunicado without access to a lawyer or his family.

Amnesty International added:

'Padilla's case is particularly troubling as he was arrested on suspicion of a crime which would clearly place him within the jurisdiction of the ordinary criminal justice system.

'If his detention is upheld, the government could potentially hold any criminal suspect associated with an alleged terrorist group in military custody for an indefinite period, with none of the usual safeguards in the criminal system.'

The transfer of Jose Padilla to military custody was made on the basis of a one-page order by President Bush designating Padilla an 'enemy combatant' closely associated with al-Qa'ida, whose detention it said was necessary to prevent him from aiding an attack on the United States.

In December 2002, a US district court upheld the president's authority to detain 'enemy combatants,' even if US citizens, with only limited right of judicial review. However, the court also ruled that Jose Padilla was entitled to consult with, and be visited by, his lawyer, in order to have some opportunity to present facts to rebut the government's evidence.

The US government appealed, arguing that granting Padilla access to an attorney would hinder its ongoing interrogation of him. Jose Padilla remains without access to his attorney pending the government's appeal.

Relevant information

Amnesty International Annual Report 2003 (for events of 2002): country entry on USA:

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