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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
How should the US treat terrorist suspects?
BBC correspondent Paul Reynolds answered your questions about the "dirty bomb" plot and its implications in a live forum.

  Click here to watch the forum



The American citizen accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack in the US has challenged the legality of his detention.

Abdullah al-Muhajir is being held as an enemy combatant and can be imprisoned without any case being brought against him until the end of America's declared war on terrorism.

His lawyer has filed a petition questioning the legal basis for his detention, saying it is unconstitutional.

Our correspondent says civil rights groups are accusing the US of changing Mr al-Muhajir's status simply in order to detain him indefinitely without bringing a charge.

It is not the first time that the Bush administration has been criticised for its handling of terrorist suspects.

Human rights groups were also critical of the treatment of al-Qaeda suspects being held in a military camp in Guantanamo Bay.

What do you think of the US authorities' treatment of terrorist suspects?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


It's up to your own solders to use their best judgement

Ray, USA
The war on terrorism is not a conventional war - you can't define the enemy well enough to make a declaration of war. However, it IS war nonetheless. In war you can't hold a trial for every enemy solder you come across. It's up to your own solders to use their best judgement to identify and execute or capture the enemy.
Ray, USA

I came to the USA because I felt, even as an immigrant, I had all the rights as a human being which my own country "may" not have provided. However, things have changed now and changed more significantly than most people are aware of. Both the CIA and FBI have been eating up billions of our tax money. Had they been responsible and done their job properly, the USA would have been a much safer place.
Toly, USA

Whatever the US does with its "terrorist suspects" will be scrutinised by all other countries, especially developing countries. As I see it, the issue is how to reconcile "human rights" with "detention without trial".
Garth, Zimbabwe

I've heard some people say that ideals have no place in war - meaning civil liberties can be ignored to protect the people. Personally, I think that it is during war that we need our ideals the most or we will loose everything that we are trying to protect. Therefore, I have to say that this man should be given a trial or released - not to protect his civil liberties, but to protect ours.
Monica, Chicago, USA


In a time of war unfortunately security has to come before civil liberties.

Jim, USA
Terrorists pose an enormous threat to both America and Europe and could commit another cowardly act any time, any where. In a time of war unfortunately security has to come before civil liberties. It is the price you must pay. Thus any one suspected of being a terrorist or of planning terrorist acts must be considered an enemy of the state and be dealt with accordingly.
Jim, USA

The United States won't be able to convince many nations that it follows the "rule of law" if it acts on the laws arbitrarily. As a free society, the citizens should be concerned when the government suspends citizens' protections without giving an adequate explanation for the reasons behind it. There are still thousands of people in the US held in custody without proper judicial representation. I have a problem with the US changing "the rules" like they're doing; it only breeds resentment and mistrust, and I fear that these tactics will only come back to haunt us later.
Sidney, United States

The US Government has produced no evidence that an actual dirty bomb existed or was in the process of being made. All we have is President Bush saying this guy is very bad indeed and needs to be locked up. If people will be locked up for having the instruments of mass destruction, then why not arrest those with fertilizer or chemicals?
John, UK

Sorry to say, many of you are grossly misinformed about American civil rights. As a political activist, I have spoken out against my government frequently, yet I have never been threatened with detention or other retribution. The key difference in Padilla's case is that he is a member of an organization that has demonstrated its intention to kill as many Americans as possible. This has nothing to do with dissent, and EVERYTHING to do with the graveyard that used to be the World Trade Centre.
Julie, USA


We seem to have studied Saddam Hussain's methods of judicial procedure to such an extent that we are now copying him.

Ronnie Smith, Scotland
I thought that we were the Western democracies, whose values are supposed to be the role model for the rest of the world. Don't we identify suspects, investigate and find evidence to prosecute them and place this evidence before a Judge and jury to await the outcome? What's so difficult about that? Instead we seem to have studied Saddam Hussain's methods of judicial procedure to such an extent that we are now copying him. Find a likely suspect, lock him away for as long as we like, publicise what we would like to think he has done at a politically convenient moment and then forget about him when the news agenda moves on. George and his pals must be getting really desperate.
Ronnie Smith, Scotland

Suspected terrorist. Is this to say that they are suspected of a crime. Surely if we honestly believe that they are guilty then let's call these people convicted.
Cameron, UK

I wonder if the depleted uranium used in armaments during the Gulf war, causing cancer and related diseases in Iraq do not come under the dirty bomb category? Detaining someone without evidence reflects the hawkish, siege mentality of American Government.
Anonymous, UK

Very convenient that the US foil a terror plot a few weeks after being accused that they could have prevented the 11 September incidents. Only a few know for sure how serious this threat was.
Andy, UK


I would like to think Blair would react in the same way

Dan, UK
The anger shown on here towards the US Government for protecting its own security and the lives of its citizens staggers me. 11 September proved the will and ability of these militants to kill and maim, so why should they take any chances at all? I would like to think that Blair would react in the same way if there were even the merest threat against a British city. Too many people worry about the criminals. For once, I support Mr Bush.
Dan, UK

How did they manage to catch this guy? Was he parading around the airport concourse wearing a sandwich board advertising his intentions? If not then the US crime prevention agencies must be on a roll. Maybe Bush should forget about his Department of Homeland Security brainstorm (which sounds like a Hollywood B-movie creation) and concentrate instead on improving the efficiency of existing agencies.
Chris B, England


Western powers have used dirty bombs themselves

Ben, UK
The Western powers have already used dirty bombs themselves in Iraq and Kosovo - those tipped with depleted uranium (ie nuclear waste) that have left a legacy of cancers and other ailments for our troops and other unfortunates who happened to live in the firing zones. Surely the actual use of dirty nuclear weapons is more of a crime than 'planning' to build such a weapon? When are we going to arrest the Western leaders and stick them in a military jail?
Ben, UK

Well we have seen how the US works in justice: throw enough mud and hope some of it sticks and if it doesn't, arrest and detain the suspect anyway. Civil liberties in both the US and the UK have been thrown to the wind for the "war on terror".
Vish, UK

Knowing the avowed agenda of al-Qaeda, releasing these people back into society or risking their release on any legal grounds would be tantamount to committing an act of terrorism ourselves.
Gregg Leslie, USA


A very dangerous precedent

Gareth C, UK
The fifth amendment states that "No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..." To imprison an American citizen without trial is a very dangerous precedent. I'm not saying that al-Mujahir is innocent but he shouldn't be locked up until a jury convicts him of a crime. America prides itself on a legal system that includes a presumption of innocence. The burden lies on the government to prove the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
Gareth C, UK

To Gareth:
Yes the fifth states that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of the law, but that is not all it says. You forgot to mention the clause stating "except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service, in time of war or public danger!" I don't know about you but I consider a possible terrorist attack to fall under the category of public danger.
AMN, USA


They have to err on the side of security

Andy, UK
I think it's fine. Nothing wrong with it. They have to err on the side of security. Let's get real about this and not let runaway touchy-feely, political correctness compromise our safety as it has so much else today.
Andy, UK

It doesn't matter what his status is. Until guilt or innocence can be proven 100%, he needs locking up in a maximum security establishment.
Rick H, UK

It is exactly this "Do as we say, not as we do" attitude that has caused some people to feel that their only redress to US policy is to commit terrorist attacks. Holding a man without charge will only inflame the situation and ultimately break up the so-called coalition.
Andrew Montague, England


Suspected war criminals have fewer rights

Mark, USA
AMERICA IS AT WAR! Suspected war criminals have far fewer rights and freedoms than ordinary suspects. The entire nation's security is at stake. There won't even be a slight crack in the legal doorway for individuals foolish enough to be seduced by a determined enemy of America. Their best strategy is to cooperate and tell everything they know. Perhaps that will get them some leniency in their sentencing. In many other countries, they would be tortured and then shot.
Mark, USA

To Mark USA, if your country is at war why has it not been officially declared by congress? Its a scam - investigate your history guys.
Roger Hamill, UK

The American government does not recognise human rights when its activities are violating them. Innocent until proven guilty has been replaced by the concept "Guilty unless the government says otherwise." Like it not, after 11 September, the US has become a totalitarian state. It chooses any definition for POW as it sees fit. Similar methods were used by the likes of Stalin and Hitler. The only difference is it is carried out with the help of patriotic American media machines.
Steven, UK


As long as you never speak out or criticise a government you should be fine

Pete, UK
Definition of terrorist: someone who opposes those in power. As long as you never speak out or criticise a government you should be fine. They will not take away your basic human rights illegally, imprison your or put you in front of a kangaroo court.
Pete, UK


Key stories

European probe

Background

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See also:

10 Jun 02 | Americas
04 Jun 02 | Americas
30 May 02 | Americas
03 Jun 02 | Americas
17 May 02 | Americas
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