Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Jose Padilla Finally Charged With a Crime

After being held in confinement for three and a half years with no charges against him, the Justice Department today finally charged him with "conspiracy to commit terrorist acts overseas."

The charges, coming just days before a key deadline in Padilla's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging his indefinite imprisonment, include conspiring to "murder, kidnap and maim" people in a foreign country and providing material support to terrorists. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

But none of the charges covers the activity in the United States that the government used to justify Padilla's status as an "enemy combatant," including his alleged plans to blow up apartment buildings and desire to detonate a radioactive bomb.

Padilla's indictment "demonstrates that we will use every tool at our disposal in fighting the war on terrorism," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a briefing to explain the charges.

But Padilla's lawyers also claimed the charges as a victory. They said last summer that the government should "put up or shut up" by charging their client or setting him free.

"It's always nice when the government returns to the Constitution," said Andrew Patel, one of Padilla's attorneys. "I think they're looking to avoid going to (the Supreme Court)."

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