WASHINGTON – Lawyers for "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla (search) want the Supreme Court (search) to step in and rule on the U.S. citizen's indefinite military detention, arguing that the judiciary needs to rein in the Bush administration's conduct in the war on terror.
"Delay increases the chance that Padilla could be faced with an unconstitutionally coerced choice — for example, whether to plead guilty to a crime or to give up other rights in order to avoid further months of detention as an enemy combatant," Padilla's lawyers wrote in court papers filed Thursday.
Padilla has spent most of his time in custody in a Navy brig in South Carolina. Padilla's case is at a federal appeals court and the prisoner's lawyers say the Supreme Court should step in now.
"Neither the president nor the Congress can be sure of their respective powers and duties in shaping the nation's response to terrorism, an uncertainty that does profound disservice to the American people and the democratic political process," Padilla's lawyers wrote.
A federal judge ruled in favor of Padilla, saying that a ruling in favor of indefinite detention as the government wants "would not only offend the rule of law and violate this country's constitutional tradition," it would be a "betrayal of this nation's commitment to the separation of powers that safeguards our democratic values and individual liberties."
Padilla was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in 2002 after returning from Pakistan. The federal government has said he received weapons and explosives training from members of Al Qaeda (search).
The government views Padilla as a militant who planned attacks on the United States, including an assault with a "dirty bomb" radiological device.
A New York-born convert to Islam, he is one of only two U.S. citizens who are enemy combatants, a designation by President Bush that allows indefinite detention without charges for Al Qaeda suspects and their associates.
The Supreme Court declined to rule in the case last year, saying Padilla's lawsuit had been filed in the wrong jurisdiction. Padilla's lawyers refiled in South Carolina.