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US high court won't review Bush's terrorism powers

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, Apr 3 (Reuters) A divided US Supreme Court declined today to decide whether President George W Bush has the power in the war on terrorism to order American citizens captured in the United States held in military jails without any criminal charges or a trial.

By a 6-3 vote, the court sided with the Bush administration and refused to hear an appeal by Jose Padilla, who was confined in a military brig in South Carolina for more than three years after Bush designated him an ''enemy combatant.'' The court's action does not amount to a ruling on the merits in the high-profile terrorism case and does not create any national precedent.

The case was affected by the Justice Department moving to bring criminal charges against Padilla in November, after his attorneys appealed to the high court. Padilla now is accused him of being part of a cell that provided money and recruits for terrorists overseas and has pleaded not guilty.

He was transferred from military to civilian custody in Florida on January 5.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the enemy combatant issue should be considered moot because Padilla was charged in federal court. The Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reject Padilla's appeal.

Padilla's appeal fell one vote short of the four needed to grant an appeal.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice John Paul Stevens, wrote to explain why the appeal was rejected. He cited the changed circumstances of Padilla's custody.

Justices David Souter, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg said they would hear the appeal. Ginsburg wrote to explain why the case should be heard.

''Nothing the government has yet done purports to retract the assertion of executive power Padilla protests. Although the government has recently lodged charges against Padilla in a civilian court, nothing prevents the executive from returning to the road it earlier constructed and defended,'' she said.

REUTERS OM RAI2116

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