AMY GOODMAN: Here with me now is one of al-Marri’s attorneys, Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice here in New York City. Welcome to Democracy Now!- here
JONATHAN HAFETZ: Good morning.
AMY GOODMAN: So start from the beginning. How was al-Marri picked up?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: Well, he was arrested at his home by FBI agents, charged with a crime, and then, as you pointed out, shortly before trial and actually literally on the eve of a hearing to suppress illegally seized evidence that was taken from his home without a warrant, the government essentially just pulled the plug on the criminal justice system and by the stroke of a pen transferred him to a military brig to legal limbo, where he had no rights, was held incommunicado and has been detained without charges now for going on four years.
AMY GOODMAN: What is this brig where he is held?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: The brig is a military prison in South Carolina. It typically houses individuals from the military who are convicted, court-martialed for offenses. But he's in a isolated wing of the brig. He's never seen another prisoner. The only individuals he's permitted to see are his captors, the military guards, and now his lawyers are able to see him, but the first seventeen months he was held completely incommunicado. His lawyers were not able to contact him. We had no contact with him.
AMY GOODMAN: For how long?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: For seventeen months.
AMY GOODMAN: For almost a year and a half.
JONATHAN HAFETZ: That's correct. Even the International Committee for the Red Cross was not able to go in. I mean, it was essentially secret detention on US soil. We had no way of knowing if he was alive.
AMY GOODMAN: And what exactly was the charge?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: Well, there was no charge. There were just allegations made, hearsay allegations, allegations we believe that were obtained from detainees through illegal methods, other detainees possibly through torture that the government did not present in court. There has been no hearing, no witnesses, nothing that would resemble what we understand as due process.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what you mean when on the eve of -- you're saying on the eve of trial?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: Well, the trial was a few weeks away, but the judge had scheduled a hearing to suppress illegally seized evidence. The government can't present evidence at a trial that’s been taken from someone's home without a warrant. And there was a hearing to find out whether that had happened, and instead of going forward with the hearing, as would normally happen, the government showed up with an order, a one-page order from the President saying, ‘You're an enemy combatant. We're going to dismiss the criminal case, and we’re going to snatch Mr. al-Marri and put him in a brig.’
AMY GOODMAN: And what does “enemy combatant” mean, that he had been fighting on the battlefield?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: Well, the term “enemy combatant” means essentially whatever the government says it means. They've used different definitions in different cases.
AMY GOODMAN: Invented by this administration?
JONATHAN HAFETZ: Yeah. The concept of enemy combatant is not a concept that's identified under the laws of war. The government claims it's a customary use of the laws of war or, you know, law of armed conflict, but there is no such thing as enemy combatant as the administration’s used its term.