Lawyer Frank Dunham will appear in the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow on behalf of Yaser Esam Hamdi, 24, who was captured 2 1/2 years ago in Afghanistan, where the U.S. says he was fighting for the Taliban. Hamdi, who lived his first three years in the U.S. before returning with his family to Saudi Arabia, has been held as an enemy combatant, barred from most contact with the outside world.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune says that since the high court decided in January to take Hamdi’s case, Dunham, a Virginia public defender, has been allowed to meet with Hamdi twice at a Navy brig in South Carolina.
The Bush administration argues that the president has the authority to hold enemy combatants indefinitely without charges or other usual processes of the legal system. Hamdi, they say, was an armed soldier of an enemy force and that his birthplace does not grant him constitutional protections.
Dunham will argue that the government is trampling on Hamdi’s rights. Two sessions with his client don’t come close to meeting the government’s responsibility to provide due process, he says. Because the government hasn’t filed charges, Hamdi hasn’t been given the opportunity to offer a defense, as guaranteed U.S. citizens under the Constitution, he argues.
His father, Esam Hamdi, said Yaser, the oldest of five sons, was born in 1980 in Baton Rouge, La., while Esam Hamdi worked as a petroleum engineer. The family returned to Saudi Arabia three years later, and Esam never again traveled to America.
John Eastman of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at California’s Claremont College said even if Hamdi’s parents are correct that he went to Pakistan and Afghanistan for humanitarian reasons, he should have quickly realized that the Taliban was not the model Islamic government claimed by supporters. “They raped women routinely just to enforce their authority, and brutalized anybody who didn’t comply with their rules,” said Eastman. He said it’s unreasonable for Hamdi to claim U.S. citizens’ rights because he was born in Louisiana, given that he left at 3 and never returned.