- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2004

The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to speed up its consideration of a White House appeal in the case of a former Chicago gang member and convert to Islam held since his 2002 capture during fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The high court said it would expedite the hearing schedule to consider the appeal in the case of Jose Padilla, arrested by the FBI in May 2002 in a suspected scheme to detonate a so-called “dirty bomb” in the United States.

Padilla, a New York native and convicted felon whose Arabic name, Abdullah al Muhajir, translates to “the emigrant,” was taken into custody at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. He was later turned over to U.S. military authorities, who are holding him as an enemy combatant.

Last month, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that President Bush lacked the authority to hold Padilla as an enemy combatant and gave the government 30 days to release him. The appeals court order was delayed to give the Supreme Court time to decide whether it will hear the case.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a separate appeal by Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen also held as an enemy combatant since his capture during fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. He claims he has not been charged with a crime and is being held incommunicado.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled that Hamdi could be detained as an enemy combatant during wartime without the constitutional protections afforded Americans in criminal prosecutions.

The high court, if the justices agree, could hear both cases as soon as Feb. 20, with a decision in April.

In the Padilla case, federal authorities believe he intended to detonate a dirty bomb, or radiological dispersion device, against a number of targets, including government buildings in Washington.

They also said Padilla met with leaders of the al Qaeda terrorist network during trips he made to Pakistan and Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, including Abu Zubaydah, a top lieutenant to Osama bin Laden. Zubaydah was captured March 28 during raids by Pakistani police in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

They said Zubaydah sent Padilla to Lahore, Pakistan, after a meeting in Afghanistan, where he was trained in building and detonating dirty bombs.

Padilla’s trip to Chicago in May 2002, authorities said, was to begin reconnaissance for a bombing site and seek a source for the radioactive material for a dirty bomb.

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