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Padilla Appears in U.S. Court

The suspected Al Qaeda operative's trial before civilian authorities starts with a brief hearing.

January 06, 2006|From Associated Press

MIAMI — Jose Padilla, the alleged Al Qaeda operative held as an "enemy combatant" for about 3 1/2 years, made his first appearance in court Thursday after he was taken from a Navy brig and flown to Miami.

The transfer from military to civilian custody began after a legal battle that reached the Supreme Court.

Padilla appeared before a judge on criminal charges after he was taken from a brig in South Carolina and flown by military aircraft to Miami, said U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Dave Turner. Padilla is to enter a plea today.

At the brief hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber explained Padilla's rights as a criminal defendant and asked whether he understood them.

"Yes, I do," said Padilla, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists and ankles.

Garber set an afternoon hearing for Padilla to enter his plea and to determine whether he would remain in custody or be released on bail. Prosecutors said they would seek to keep him in jail until his trial.

Padilla, a former Chicago gang member, was arrested at O'Hare International Airport in May 2002 and held by the Bush administration without criminal charges on suspicion of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" inside the United States.

The Supreme Court has been asked to use Padilla's case to define the extent of presidential power over U.S. citizens who are detained on American soil on suspicion of terrorism. But before the high court could decide whether to take up the case, the administration indicted Padilla in November in civilian court.

The charges do not involve the dirty-bomb allegations, contending instead that Padilla joined a North American terrorism support network that sent him abroad to train with Al Qaeda to "murder, maim and kidnap" people.

The transfer of Padilla from military to civilian custody was approved Wednesday by the Supreme Court, which overruled the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

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