(AFP) – Apr 24, 2012
WASHINGTON — US citizen Jose Padilla, who was jailed for four years as an "enemy combatant" and claims to have been tortured, has asked the Supreme Court to reinstate his civil case against top US officials.
His bid to sue former and present officials -- including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- was rejected by an appeals court in January, which said they enjoyed official immunity.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Padilla's mother Estela Lebron appealed the ruling. Padilla is in a maximum-security prison in Colorado after being convicted in 2007 of aiding a homegrown Al-Qaeda cell.
The ACLU claims in the suit that Padilla, who was imprisoned without charge for nearly four years as an "enemy combatant," was subjected to a range of abuse while being held in a Navy brig in South Carolina.
"If the appeals court's ruling is allowed to stand, government officials will have a blank check to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of an American citizen in an American prison," Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the ACLU, said in a statement Monday.
"Tell me where in the Constitution it says that torturing Americans is acceptable," Lebron was quoted as saying in the same statement.
The Supreme Court will now decide whether to confirm the lower court's ruling, which said that Padilla's detention was a matter of national security policy under the purview of the executive and legislative branches.
The ACLU says Padilla was prevented from speaking with his lawyer or family for two of the four years he was held in South Carolina, in Guantanamo Bay-like conditions.
It says he was placed in stress positions for several hours at a time, deprived of sleep, beaten and threatened with torture and death.
Padilla has long been a symbol of the George W. Bush administration's alleged legal overreach following the September 11 attacks, when hundreds of so-called "enemy combatants" -- the vast majority of them foreigners captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- were detained without formal charges or trial.
Padilla, a former Chicago gang member and Muslim convert, was convicted in 2007 of aiding Al-Qaeda and sentenced to 17 years in jail.
He had gone to Egypt in the 1990s to study and later traveled to Afghanistan. He was arrested in 2002 as he returned to the United States.
The terror cell was alleged to have supplied recruits and funding to Muslim extremists abroad, and conspired to murder, kidnap and maim people in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia and other countries from 1993 to 2001.
US authorities had initially justified his detention by saying he was an "enemy combatant" who had planned to explode a radioactive bomb in the United States, a charge that was later dropped.
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