Fed Judge Tosses Torture Lawsuit by “Dirty Bomber”

Jose Padilla
By Allan Lengel

A federal judge in South Carolina on Thursday tossed out a lawsuit against the government by the man known as the “dirty bomber.” Jose Padilla had claimed he was tortured and denied an opportunity to practice his religion.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that Padilla, who was arrested at Chicago O’Hare Airport in 2002 as an enemy combatant, could not sue for constitutional violations and that the government had “qualified immunity” in the case. After his arrest he was transferred to the Naval Brig in Charleston, S.C.

“Therefore, to the extent that a viable cause of action were found to exist under the Constitution, the Court finds that all defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on all issues relating to Padilla’s designation and detention as an enemy combatant,” the judge wrote.

“The Court finds that under the circumstances then existing during Padilla’s detention and interrogation, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity for Padilla’s RFRA claims. There was then no “clearly established” federal law on these issues, and the courts were only then beginning to sort out the legal rights of those designated as enemy combatants.”

The lawsuit had named defendants including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Judge Gergel

Padilla was held as an enemy combatant for 3 1/2 years before he was transferred to Miami to face allegations in civilian court that he planned to build and detonate a “dirty bomb” in the U.S.

He was convicted in August 2007 and subsequently sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke in Miami to 17 years and four months in prison.

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