- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

The government yesterday asked a federal court to dismiss a defense motion to release al Qaeda terror suspect Abdullah al Muhajir, a U.S. citizen also known as Jose Padilla, held by the military in connection with a plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb."
U.S. Attorney James B. Comey told U.S. District Judge Michael B. Mukasey in New York the court lacked jurisdiction in the case since al Muhajir's attorney, Donna Newman, lacked the legal standing under her pending "next friend" petition to bring the case on al Muhajir's behalf.
A "next friend" motion generally is filed by a person appointed by the court to look after the interests of someone who is unable to act on his own behalf.
"This court lacks jurisdiction over this habeas petition because attorney Newman does not have 'next friend' standing to bring the case on Padilla's behalf," Mr. Comey said in a 23-page motion. "Accordingly, the court should dismiss the petition."
In order to assert next-friend standing under Supreme Court rules, Mr. Comey said a person must establish not only that the detainee cannot himself sign the habeas petition, but that the next friend has a "significant relationship" and is "truly dedicated" to his best interests.
Mrs. Newman argued last week before Judge Mukasey that there was insufficient evidence to indict al Muhajir, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, and that his continued confinement by the military was unconstitutional. She said probable cause did not exist to further detain al Muhajir.
She said al Muhajir had not been charged with a crime and a grand jury had not been presented any evidence of his involvement in a conspiracy to construct and detonate a radiological dispersion device, or dirty bomb.
Mrs. Newman initially signed the petition as al Muhajir's attorney but later amended that designation to "next friend."
Judge Mukasey is expected to make a ruling in the pending motions shortly.
Al Muhajir, 31, was detained May 8 after his arrival at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said the conspiracy had not extended past the planning stages, although al Muhajir reportedly was carrying plans for an attack and $10,000 in cash when he was taken into custody.
Authorities said al Muhajir had returned to the United States to begin reconnaissance for a bombing site and seek a source for the radioactive material for a dirty bomb. They said he had been under surveillance by the FBI as he traveled in Pakistan, Egypt and Switzerland. He was arrested in Chicago after a flight from Zurich and Karachi, Pakistan.
Held by the Justice Department as a material witness after his May 8 arrest, al Muhajir was transferred to Defense Department custody after being ruled "an enemy combatant." He is being held at the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, S.C.
Mr. Comey said President Bush determined that al Muhajir was an enemy combatant. He said the authority of the United States to seize and detain enemy combatants was well settled "and vital to our core military objectives."
"The authority to capture and detain is not diminished by the fact that the enemy combatant is an American citizen," Mr. Comey said.
Authorities said al Muhajir met frequently with top al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks on America to discuss further U.S. targets.

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