Judge: Doctors Who Treat Terrorists Under Terror Organization's Orders Can Be Prosecuted

Doctors who volunteer to treat the wounds of terrorists under a terrorist organization's direction can be prosecuted under U.S. terrorism laws, a judge said Tuesday.

Dr. Rafiq Abdus Sabir is accused of agreeing to treat Al Qaeda members, but he has claimed it is unconstitutional to prosecute a doctor for providing medical services.

Sabir was arrested in 2005, accused with three others in a plot to assist terrorist organizations from 2003 to 2005. He has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to provide material support or resources to a terrorist organization and has remained jailed since his arrest.

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U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska said "any reasonable doctor" would know from the plain language of U.S. law that pledging to provide medical support to wounded terrorist under the control and direction of Al Qaeda would be a form of outlawed "expert advice or assistance."

"It is not beyond the power of Congress to prohibit the provision of medical services by a doctor working under the control or direction of a terrorist organization," the judge wrote.

The judge said Sabir is not charged merely for being a doctor or for performing medical services.

"Here, Sabir is alleged essentially to have volunteered as a medic for the Al Qaeda military, offering to make himself available specifically to attend to the wounds of injured fighters," she said. "Much as a military force needs weapons, ammunition, trucks, food and shelter, it needs medical personnel to tend to its wounded."

She also rejected arguments by Sabir's lawyer, Edward Wilford, that the law would subject to prosecution doctors who treat a terrorist randomly at a hospital or members of a group like Doctors Without Borders.

But in such cases, the doctor is not acting under the direction of a designated foreign terrorist organization, the judge said.

Wilford did not immediately return a telephone message for comment Tuesday.

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