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Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 12:30 GMT
Padilla appears in civilian court
Jose Padilla
Jose Padilla was arrested at Chicago airport in May 2002
US terror suspect Jose Padilla has made his first appearance before a judge after more than three years in military custody as an "enemy combatant".

He appeared in court in Miami after being transferred to civilian custody.

Mr Padilla, a US citizen, is to be formally charged with plotting to "murder, kidnap and maim" abroad.

The case has huge legal and political significance, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington, as it focuses on presidential power at a time of war.

Mr Padilla's detention, heavily criticised by civil rights groups, is seen as a test of the limits of the US government's anti-terrorism powers.

Test of authority

He appeared in court in Miami wearing an orange jumpsuit, handcuffs and leg shackles.

The charges against Mr Padilla do not include allegations made against him when he was arrested in 2002, of plotting to set off a radioactive device or "dirty bomb" in a US city.

Mr Padilla, a former Chicago gang member, was finally charged in November 2005 with the conspiracy offences.

His legal team is expected to ask for him to be released before his trial, a move which prosecutors will oppose.

A series of challenges to Mr Padilla's detention in military custody could eventually have ended in a Supreme Court battle over the president's powers to hold US citizens as "enemy combatants", says Justin Webb in Washington.

But the White House decided not to take the risk of testing the president's authority, so they handed Mr Padilla to the civilian courts, he says.

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