ACLU seeks OAS probe of Padilla case

“The United States has its obligation under the Constitution and federal law, but it also has its obligations under international law. The U.S. will have to formally respond to the allegations in that petition as if it was filed in a federal court,” said Steven Watt, the ACLU attorney filing the petition.

Watt said the OAS commission would probably give the U.S. government about six months to prepare a response, reflecting the legal complexity of the case, which churned through U.S. courts for 10 years and reached the U.S. Supreme Court twice.

The ACLU’s filing says those initial accusations against Padilla, according to a sworn U.S. declaration, were based on statements “made by two unnamed suspected terrorists who had been detained and interrogated outside of the United States,” one of whom later recanted and the other who had been drugged during interrogation.

In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Padilla’s case against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials in which he claimed he was being held illegally and denied due process. The high court ruled he should have taken the case to a federal court in South Carolina and that the brig commander should have been the target of the case. In June of this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear another appeal of the case.

In September, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Padilla’s original 17-year sentence was too lenient for a trained al Qaeda operative who also had a long criminal record as a Chicago gang member. The appellate court granted a request by the Justice Department that Padilla be resentenced. Padilla, according to trial testimony, trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.

Last month, Padilla’s resentencing was postponed until Jan. 29 by a federal judge after his defense attorney, Michael Caruso, argued his client is deteriorating psychologically after years of isolation and needs more time for family visits.

Caruso said Padilla’s family in South Florida has only been able to visit him one time since 2008 at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where he is kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day and allowed no contact with other inmates. His mother and sisters were able to see him more regularly after he was taken to a Miami detention center to await resentencing.

Caruso called the harsh prison conditions akin to torture, which was rejected by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Frazier. “He is not in some black hole of Calcutta,” Frazier said.

Counting time off for good behavior, Padilla’s current prison release date is Jan. 4, 2022.

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