US judge defines enemy combatant
WASHINGTON - Al Qaeda or Taliban supporters who directly assisted in hostile acts against the United States or its allies can be held without charges as enemy combatants, a federal judge ruled yesterday.
The ruling by US District Judge Richard J. Leon takes a first step toward resolving the fate of some of the hundreds of men - many who have been held for years without charges - detained as terror suspects at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
It also strikes a compromise between dueling definitions by the government and the detainees over who can be labeled an enemy combatant.
Lawyers for six detainees, all Bosnians, said yesterday's ruling limits the government's ability to hold suspects who were not captured on a battlefield. They called it a "favorable" opinion.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the government was "pleased" with Leon's ruling, which relies on the Defense Department's 2004 definition of an enemy combatant.
In yesterday's order, Leon reached back to the Pentagon's September 2004 definition. He said the issue should have been resolved long ago.
"Happily, there is a definition that was crafted by the executive and blessed by the Congress," Leon told the courtroom.
He pointed to the 2004 standard, defining an enemy combatant as an individual who was part of supporting Al Qaeda, Taliban or other associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.
Specifically, the definition includes any person who committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy forces.