A federal appeals court has ruled that the government can indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without trial.
The ruling came down in the case of Jose Padilla – a Brooklyn-born man accused of plotting to set off a “dirty bomb” inside the United States.
Padilla has been held for over three years in solitary conferment on a Navy brig. No charges have ever been filed against him and he has never appeared before a judge.
The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the president has the authority to detain individuals “in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.”
Writing the decision was Judge J. Michael Luttig, who is reportedly being considered by President Bush as a potential Supreme Court nominee.
The ruling overturns an earlier decision by U.S. District Judge Henry Floyd that “indefinite detention without trial” is unconstitutional. “The court’s ruling effectively declares the entire world, including the United States, to be a battlefield subject to military jurisdiction, where American citizens can be stripped of their constitutional rights,” said Deborah Pearlstein of Human Rights First.
Padilla’s attorney, Donna Newman, plans to appeal the decision.
“They’re telling him he’s going to be held forever, that he has no rights,” Newman said. “What they’re saying is worse than a life sentence.”