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Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 22:45 GMT
US terror suspect's plea delayed
Jose Padilla
Jose Padilla was arrested at Chicago airport in May 2002
A US terror suspect who was held as an enemy combatant for more than three years before being moved to civilian custody has had his case delayed.

Jose Padilla had been expected to enter a plea on Friday on charges of plotting to "murder, kidnap and maim" abroad, but now must wait until 12 January.

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

His case has huge legal and political significance, 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 on Thursday 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", the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says.

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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