WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Jose Padilla, the US citizen arrested in 2002 for an alleged "dirty bomb" plot, launched an action to try to revive a lawsuit over his alleged torture at an American naval base.
Padilla, who is incarcerated at a high security jail in Colorado, previously sued in an attempt to hold former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other US officials accountable for his suffering, but a district court judge granted the latter immunity and dismissed the case.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in a federal appeals court Wednesday, however, said the case should be reinstated as Padilla was imprisoned without trial for four years and subjected to a range of abuse.
"The defendants in this case seized Jose Padilla from a civilian jail and hid him away in a military brig precisely to keep the courts from interfering with the terrible things they were doing to him," the ACLU said in a statement.
"By granting the defendants immunity for their cruel acts, the district court vindicated their deliberate efforts to circumvent the Constitution," during the "War on Terror" conducted during the presidency of George W. Bush.
A lawyer for Rumsfeld told the court that the US Congress had created legal protections that precluded all military officials from liability.
Padilla, a former Chicago gang member and Muslim convert, was convicted in 2007 of aiding a US-based Al-Qaeda cell and was subsequently sentenced to 17 years in jail.
The charges said the terror cell had supplied recruits and funding to Islamic extremists abroad, and conspired to murder, kidnap and maim people in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia and other countries from 1993 to 2001.
Padilla, 40, was arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare airport after returning from Egypt
US authorities justified his detention without charge at a US navy prison in South Carolina by saying he was an "enemy combatant" who had planned to explode a radioactive bomb in the United States.
But when he was transferred to the civilian justice system after three-and-a-half years in military detention, the indictment made no mention of the so-called "dirty bomb" plot.
During the trial his defense team claimed Padilla was tortured while in military detention and that the alleged ill-treatment left him unable to participate in his own defense.
The defense team said Padilla was subjected to sleep deprivation, threats of execution, exposure to noxious fumes and extreme heat and cold, and was forced to wear a hood and stand in one position for extended periods of time.
"We're not going to stop, we just don't want that to happen again to anyone," Padilla's mother Estela Lebron told AFP after Wednesday's hearing.