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Justices order 'enemy combatant' transfer
High court will still consider appeal of Padilla's designation

CNN/Bill Mears | January 5 2006

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court ordered terrorism suspect and U.S. citizen Jose Padilla transferred from military custody Wednesday to stand trial in Miami, Florida.

The brief order came at the request of the Bush administration, which had been blocked by a federal appeals court from moving ahead with the transfer.

The high court is also considering a broader appeal from Padilla, questioning whether President Bush had constitutional authority to hold him in military custody since 2003 as an "enemy combatant."

The government had argued that that issue was moot because Padilla would be charged in criminal court. The Supreme Court will consider whether to review the appeal January 13

Padilla's lawyers had also approved of the transfer but wanted to wait until his broader appeal was considered.

"I'm glad Padilla will be able to defend himself before a jury of his peers, like every other American," attorney Jonathan Frieman said. " I'm also glad that the government has now recognized that Padilla's transfer to a civilian jail does not make the case less worthy of review by the Supreme Court."

Justice Department spokesman John Nowacki said, "We are pleased we will be able to move forward with the criminal case."

Padilla is being held in a Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina, and is to be transferred to federal criminal custody in Miami. There was no indication when the transfer would take place.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, blocked Padilla's transfer two weeks ago. In a sharply worded opinion, the court noted differences between criminal charges filed against Padilla in November and earlier accusations against him as an enemy combatant.

Padilla was originally accused, but never charged, with plotting to set off a "dirty bomb," or crude radioactive device, in the United States.

Padilla was indicted in November on charges of conspiring to murder U.S. citizens and to provide material support to terrorists. His trial is scheduled to begin in September.

The government wants the criminal case against Padilla to proceed, and had urged the high court to intervene quickly on its behalf.

"A citizen remains detained in military custody as a result of the order of a court, not of a military officer or the president," the government argued.

"The bottom line remains that, at this point, the basis for Padilla's continued military detention as an enemy combatant is the Fourth Circuit's mistaken order."

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