Accused enemy combatant Ali al-Marri was served with an arrest warrant Tuesday and transferred out of U.S. military custody for the first time since 2003, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Al-Marri’s initial court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates released the Qatari man to the U.S. Marshals Service in preparation for the hearing. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the Obama administration’s request to dismiss al-Marri’s challenge of the president’s unilateral authority to detain him indefinitely and without charges. The high court ruled that al-Marri’s case was rendered moot by a decision to indict him on federal conspiracy charges. The court’s ruling means there is no resolution of the larger constitutional issue of the president’s power to detain people accused of terrorism and other crimes in the United States. The decision by the Obama administration to criminally charge al-Marri after he spent seven years in custody — more than five years in virtual isolation in a Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina — is the latest twist in the ongoing legal saga of the only remaining “enemy combatant” held in the United States.
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Al-Marri had been accused of being an al Qaeda “sleeper agent,” but until the indictment had never been charged with a criminal or terrorism-related offense. The 43-year-old man will be sent at some point to Peoria, Illinois, to face a criminal trial. President Obama last month ordered a prompt and thorough review of the “factual and legal basis” for the continued detention of al-Marri. He subsequently issued a presidential memorandum ordering Gates to facilitate al-Marri’s transfer, saying it was “in the interest of the United States.” Since his initial arrest on credit card fraud charges in December 2001, al-Marri — a legal resident of the United States — had remained in “virtual isolation in the brig,” his attorneys said. They were suing the government to improve his jail conditions and were challenging the constitutionality of his detention. The Pentagon asserts al-Marri had trained at a terror camp in Afghanistan, met al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and “volunteered for a martyr mission,” according to a government filing with the Supreme Court.