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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


The "victory" in the Ali al-Marri case

Typical headlines in yesterday's decision in the case of Ali al-Marri run along the lines of this one from the New York Times: "Judges Say U.S. Can’t Hold Man as 'Combatant.'" So you'll be forgiven if you think that Mr. al-Marri might find himself a free man anytime soon. Because you need to read the fine print (emphasis added):
The federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled yesterday..."military detention of al-Marri must cease." Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the majority of a divided three-judge panel.

In a statement, the Justice Department said it would ask the full Fourth Circuit to rehear the case, which could eventually reach the Supreme Court.
I frequently mention the case of the Cuban Five, and, as it turns out, what has happened to the Cuban Five is highly relevant to the al-Marri case - a divided three-judge panel of a Federal Appeal Court (in Atlanta in that case, in Richmond in this one) ruled that their trial had been unjust and invalid, but rather than set them free, the government kept them in jail and appealed the case to the full court (a virtually unprecedented action according to the attorneys). A full year later, after no doubt intense pressure was applied from above, the full court reversed the decision of the three-judge panel, leaving the original trial verdict to stand (and the Five still unjustly imprisoned).

If "justice delayed is justice denied," what is "injustice delayed"? Even greater injustice, that's what. While the courts dither, and take years to make rulings, Mr. al-Marri continues to rot in jail. Who will give him his life back when and if he's finally set free? Who will give the Cuban Five their lives back, should they ever be set free?

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