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Rumsfeld seeks to throw out Padilla case

Jose Padilla was convicted of helping Al-Qaeda. His lawyers say he was mistreated for years, and that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld violated Padilla's civil and constitutional rights.

By Staff writer / February 13, 2011

Jose Padilla is seen in this courtroom drawing during the 2007 conspiracy trial in which he was convicted of helping Al-Qaeda. His lawyers say he was mistreated, and that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld violated Padilla's civil and constitutional rights.

Shirley Henderson/AP

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Lawyers for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are asking a federal judge in South Carolina to throw out a lawsuit filed by former enemy combatant Jose Padilla, who was subjected to harsh interrogation tactics in a military prison.

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A hearing is set for Monday morning before US District Judge Richard Gergel in Charleston, S.C.

The suit charges Mr. Rumsfeld and other Defense Department officials with violating Mr. Padilla’s civil and constitutional rights.

After being designated an enemy combatant by President Bush in 2002, Padilla, a US citizen, was whisked away from the criminal justice system to an isolation cell and interrogation at the Consolidated US Naval Brig in Charleston. He was held without charge for nearly four years.

The Bush administration sought to justify the action in part by claiming Padilla was plotting with Al-Qaeda to detonate a radiological “dirty bomb” in a US city. No evidence of such a plot has been presented in court.

Several of the initial sources of information about Padilla were subjected to waterboarding and other coercive and controversial interrogation techniques at secret CIA interrogation centers overseas. Human rights experts consider these techniques a form of torture that can render provided information unreliable.

There is no allegation that Padilla was waterboarded. But his lawyers say he was subject to “a vicious program of interrogation.”

Shackled in painful positions

He was confined to an isolation cell for a 21-month regime of sleep and sensory deprivation. The cell had no mattress, blanket, sheet, or pillow. He was frequently shackled in painful stress positions and threatened with immediate execution unless he gave a full confession of his alleged involvement with Al-Qaeda, according of Padilla’s lawyers.

Padilla’s treatment by the Bush administration attracted international attention and raised fundamental issues about a president’s power to strip a US citizen of his or her constitutional rights by designating him an enemy combatant – even when that citizen was arrested on American soil.

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