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Court blocks bid to represent Hamdi

Hamdi, center, was captured in Afghanistan and declared an 'enemy combatant.'
Hamdi, center, was captured in Afghanistan and declared an 'enemy combatant.'  

From From CNN National Correspondent Bob Franken and Justice Producer Terry Frieden

RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) -- A federal appeals court Wednesday overturned a lower court order which would have allowed a man detained by the U.S. government as an "enemy combatant" to meet with, and be represented by, a federal public defender.

A three-judge panel in Richmond ruled public defender Frank Dunham may not meet with Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen captured in Afghanistan, who is currently detained at the Norfolk Naval Base.

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Findlaw documents, PDF format 
Louisiana Birth Certificate (Yaser Esam Hamdi) 
District Court Order (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld)  
Gov. brief to 4th Circuit (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, et al.) 

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The judges ruled that the public defender had no standing to seek to represent Hamdi. The opinion turned on whether a public defender could be classified as a "best friend" defined in the law as someone who has a personal interest in the well-being of a client.

The judges ruled "... the public defender..." does not have "... any prior relationship whatever with Hamdi," and "...fails to satisfy an important jurisdictional prerequisite standing."

Meantime, in the time since the case began, Hamdi's father has filed court papers seeking the same "next friend" status rejected Wednesday by the court for the public defender.

Ruling a victory for government

The ruling mentions the father's move, and pointed to it as "an action far closer" to a traditional lawsuit than from outsiders the court described as coming "from across the street."

Hamdi has not been charged.

The ruling is a victory for government lawyers who have argued they must be able to hold and question Hamdi to gain information which could potentially prevent further terrorist acts.

The court ignored legal arguments over the Bush administration's claim that only the executive branch of government can determine who is an "unlawful combatant" not covered by civil U.S. law.

Even though there is a probability Hamdi is a U.S. citizen, the president has declared him an unlawful combatant.




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