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Religious Freedom

Appeals Court Rebukes Bush on Enemy Combatant

Press Release
Tarek Rizk or Nathan Richter
PFAW Foundation
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Judges Cite Federal Law Against Detaining American Citizens

In a ruling today, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed with the arguments raised in the amicus brief filed by People For the American Way Foundation and others that President Bush cannot indefinitely detain American citizens seized on American soil because Congress specifically legislated in 1971 against such action without its explicit authorization. Signatories to the brief included such unlikely allies as the conservative Rutherford Institute and the Cato Institute. The Court ordered that the Department of Defense release Jose Padilla within 30 days. Padilla could be released to civilian authorities for criminal prosecution.

“This ruling is an impressive rebuke to the president’s astonishing claim that he can unilaterally decide to indefinitely imprison and suspend the constitutional rights of American citizens in the name of the ‘war on terror.’ More than anything, it reaffirms the absolute authority of the Constitution during this time,” said People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas. “The Second Circuit made it clear that the president’s powers do not include indefinite detention of American citizens on American soil. As I said when we filed our brief, the war on terrorism must go on, but this administration cannot abandon the Constitution and the laws of this nation when it sees fit.”

“This ruling is a ringing endorsement of the Constitution and the rule of law. Under siege, we are still a democracy, and in a democracy, citizens have rights,” said Neas. “This ruling will help restore our critical system of checks and balances, which has been under attack since September 11th, 2001.”