Page last updated at 18:29 GMT, Friday, 6 March 2009

US court rejects detainee appeal

Ali al-Marri (2003 pic)
Ali al-Marri has been detained at a US naval base since 2003

A suspected al-Qaeda agent has had an appeal against his military detention in the US rejected, days after he was charged with a terrorism offence.

US Supreme Court judges sided with government lawyers, who argued that Ali al-Marri was no longer in military custody so his appeal was invalid.

The 43-year-old, a joint Saudi-Qatari national, has been in custody in South Carolina since 2003.

He was known as the last "enemy combatant" held on US soil.

Bin Laden link

He had appealed against the right of the US president to hold terrorism suspects in the US indefinitely without charge.

But the government of President Barack Obama moved to put Mr al-Marri into the civilian justice system, charging him last Friday with conspiracy and providing support to terrorists while he was a student in Illinois.

The charges, which carry a maximum of 30 years in prison, meant Mr al-Marri would be transferred from a military prison to civilian custody.

Government lawyers were then able to argue that he was no longer being held as an enemy combatant.

The government has said Mr al-Marri met Osama Bin Laden and volunteered for a suicide mission.

It is claimed that he arrived in the US the day before the attacks on New York and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001.

Court documents allege Mr al-Marri was a computer expert and was ordered to wreak havoc on the US banking system and serve as a liaison for other al-Qaeda operatives entering the US.

The last of three suspects designated enemy combatants to be held on US soil - as opposed to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba - Mr al-Marri has been held at a naval base in South Carolina since 2003.

His lawyers have said he has been confined in a special unit surrounded by 100 empty cells.

Mr al-Marri now faces trial in Peoria, Illinois.

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