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Fighting terror

Court says law does not protect detainees

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2003


WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals panel gave the Bush administration a significant legal victory Tuesday, ruling unanimously that prisoners from the Afghan war held in Guantanamo Bay may not challenge their detentions in federal court because the United States has no legal jurisdiction over the naval base in Cuba.

The three-judge panel said that the 16 detainees at Guantanamo who brought the lawsuit had no recourse to American courts as they had never entered U.S. territory.

The ruling was another in a string of verdicts from the courts, several of them favorable to the administration, as the government's aggressive techniques in the fight against terrorism are being challenged in the federal judiciary.

While the lawyers argued that Guantanamo "is in essence a territory of the United States," the judges of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that was not so in strict legal terms. "Cuba -- not the United States -- has sovereignty over Guantanamo Bay," the panel said, citing the lease agreement between Cuba and United States that explicitly reserves sovereignty to Havana.

Although the case was brought on behalf of 12 Kuwaitis, two Britons and two Australians, it applies to all of the approximately 650 prisoners being held at Guantanamo.

DIRTY-BOMB SUSPECT CAN SEE LAWYER: A former Chicago gang member accused of plotting with al-Qaida to detonate a "dirty" bomb of radioactive material can meet with defense lawyers despite government concerns, a judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey rejected the government's plea to reverse his decision last year allowing lawyers to consult with Jose Padilla, 31, who was designated an enemy combatant by the White House last summer.

Before Padilla can see a lawyer for the first time since June, ground rules have to be worked out between the sides and possibly the judge. A hearing was set for the end of the month.

Trade Center photos were in suspect's computer

The FBI has discovered photographs of the World Trade Center towers taken before and after they were destroyed in a computer used by a Saudi doctoral student arrested in Idaho last month.

Sami Omar al-Hussayen, 34, is accused of raising and distributing money through radical Islamic Web sites that promoted suicide attacks against the United States. Federal prosecutors in Boise, appearing in court Tuesday seeking to have al-Hussayen held without bail, said the photos were found after al-Hussayen was taken into custody on 11 counts of visa fraud and false statements.

An FBI agent testified that he unearthed thousands of photographs, including shots of planes hitting buildings, plane crashes, the Pentagon and the Empire State Building, in the hard drive of a computer al-Hussayen used regularly at the University of Idaho engineering laboratory, where he was studying computer science.

Al-Hussayen's defense attorney, David Nevin, said the government's showing in court was intended "purely to sensationalize," adding, "you're not going to hear that Sami met with Osama bin Laden."

Hand washing found to combat anthrax

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mom was right: Wash your hands good with soap.

It even works on bioterrorism.

That's the finding of two University of North Carolina School of Medicine professors who contaminated the hands of volunteers with a bacteria similar to anthrax, then ordered them to clean up with various products.

The results: Vigorous scrubbing with good old-fashioned soap and water is still the champ, matching an antiseptic agent commonly used in hospitals and working better than an alcohol-based handrub that's favored by many doctors and nurses.

The study by Dr. David Weber and William Rutala is published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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