SAN FRANCISCO – A man serving a 17-year prison sentence for terrorist activities has been given the green light to sue a former US government lawyer who wrote memos that allegedly led to his torture, US media reports said Sunday.
Jose Padilla, a US citizen arrested in 2002 for an alleged "dirty bomb" plot only to have the charges dropped three years later, was jailed in January 2008 for separate charges of providing support to the Al-Qaeda terror network.
Lawyers for Padilla have filed a lawsuit against John Yoo, a former lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, arguing that he was responsible for crafting the legal memos which led to his detention and harsh interrogation.
Padilla, who was held in solitary confinement as an "enemy combatant" for more than three years at a US Navy installation in Charleston, South Carolina, alleges he was tortured.
Padilla's lawsuit, which demands Yoo be held accountable for his treatment, alleges he suffered "gross physical and psychological abuse at the hands of federal officials as part of a systematic program of abusive interrogation intended to break down Mr Padilla's humanity and his will to live."
Yoo, part of Bush's war council and deputy attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003, wrote several memorandums endorsing harsh treatment.
Yoo has argued that the suit should be dismissed because it has not been established that Padilla's treatment was unconstitutional.
However San Francisco Federal Court Judge Jeffrey White, who was appointed by Bush, said in a written ruling released late Friday that Padilla's case can proceed.
White found Padilla "has alleged sufficient facts to satisfy the requirement that Yoo set in motion a series of events that resulted in the deprivation of Padilla's constitutional rights."
Tahlia Townsend, a member of Padilla's legal team, described the ruling as a "a significant victory for American values, government accountability and our system of checks and balances."
Padilla and his mother, Estela Lebron, are seeking one dollar in damages and a declaration by the court that his treatment was unconstitutional.
Yoo, who is being represented by the Justice Department, so far has declined to comment on the case.
Padilla, 38, dubbed the "Puerto Rican Taliban," was arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare airport after returning from Egypt and was taken to a US Navy prison in South Carolina.
At his 2007 trial, prosecutors said the former Chicago gang member and Muslim convert traveled abroad to train as a "jihad" fighter, and had asked to receive "violent jihad training" while in Afghanistan in July 2000.
US authorities justified his detention without charge, saying he was an "enemy combatant" who allegedly planned to explode a radioactive bomb in the country.
But when he was transferred to the civilian justice system after three-and-a-half years in military detention, the indictment made no mention of the so-called "dirty bomb" plot.
During the trial, his defense team claimed Padilla had been tortured while in military detention and that the alleged ill-treatment left him unable to participate in his own defense.
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