MIAMI – Former "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla returned to court Friday, a day after his transfer from military to civilian custody, but a judge agreed to postpone hearing his plea and deciding whether he should be granted bail.
Padilla's lawyers had asked for the delay, saying they needed more time to sort through the complex case. U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber set a new hearing for Jan. 12.
Prosecutors want Garber to deny bail for Padilla, 35, who was taken from a South Carolina brig and flown to Miami on Thursday after three years in military custody. He is accused of being part of a North American terror support cell seeking to provide money, material and fighters for violent Islamic extremists around the world.
The former Chicago gang member said little during Friday's brief hearing, pausing at one point to wave one of his shackled hands at his mother, Estrela Ortega Lebron, who was in the courtroom. She declined to comment afterward.
After Thursday's hearing and a closed-door meeting with Padilla, his lawyer Andrew Patel said he was pleased that his client is getting his day in court.
"Mr. Padilla is being treated as any American citizen," Patel said. "This case should be tried in a public courtroom, and will be tried in a public courtroom."
Padilla was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare 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 Bush administration indicted Padilla in November in civilian court. The charges do not involve the "dirty bomb" allegations.
Padilla's transfer to civilian custody was approved Wednesday by the Supreme Court. The court overruled a refusal by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which suggested the administration changed tactics and indicted Padilla to avert a ruling from the Supreme Court on presidential powers during wartime.