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Alleged terrorist won't be released

A judge clears the way for the detainee's transfer to Illinois, where he is set to be arraigned Monday.

March 19, 2009|Washington Post

WASHINGTON — A federal magistrate ordered suspected sleeper agent Ali Saleh Kahlah Marri detained on conspiracy and terrorism charges Wednesday, setting the stage for a trial that could explore Al Qaeda's plans after the terrorist strikes in the United States in 2001.

At a proceeding in Charleston, S.C., Justice Department counter-terrorism prosecutor Michael Mullaney urged court officials to declare Marri a flight risk and a danger to the community. Authorities say Marri arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 10, 2001, on false pretenses and "under the command and control of Al Qaeda."

Defense attorney Andrew Savage implored the judge to release Marri, who spent 5 1/2 years in a U.S. naval brig before being indicted by a grand jury last month. Savage called several witnesses, including his own wife, to testify about Marri's character and his religious devotion.

Judge Robert Carr disagreed, reasoning that Marri's lawyers had not met a high legal bar. His order clears the way for Marri's transfer to Peoria, Ill., where he is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Marri had been the only remaining enemy combatant on U.S. soil, and his case has been closely watched by national security experts and civil libertarians.

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. told reporters Wednesday that the decision to charge Marri in a U.S. court is "reflective of the changed approach this administration has taken."

Holder said detailed reviews are underway of the roughly 240 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to determine how many of them can be tried in American courts.

He said he expects a government task force will reach that conclusion in at least some of the cases.

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