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US judge blocks indefinite detention of Americans

Published time: May 17, 2012 00:09
Edited time: May 17, 2012 04:46
Plaintiff Jennifer "Tangerine" Bolen speaks to reporters during a news conference outside the Federal Court in Manhattan March 29, 2012 (Reuters / Mike Segar)

Plaintiff Jennifer "Tangerine" Bolen speaks to reporters during a news conference outside the Federal Court in Manhattan March 29, 2012 (Reuters / Mike Segar)

A US federal judge has temporarily blocked a section of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act that allows for the indefinite military detention of US citizens.

­In a 68-page ruling, US District Judge Katherine Forrest agreed on Wednesday that the statute failed to “pass constitutional muster” because its language could be interpreted quite broadly and eventually be used to suppress political dissent.

"There is a strong public interest in protecting rights guaranteed by the First Amendment," Forrest wrote, according to CourtHouseNews.Com. "There is also a strong public interest in ensuring that due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment are protected by ensuring that ordinary citizens are able to understand the scope of conduct that could subject them to indefinite military detention."

The Manhattan judge therefore ruled in favor of a group of writers and activists who sued US officials, including President Barack Obama. They claimed that the act, which was signed into law on December 31, makes them fear possible arrest by US armed forces.

Among those who filed the complaint, Bloomberg reports, was former New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges. According to the journalist, NDAA would allow federal authorities to hold him in custody just for interviewing individuals who were detained on “suspicion of providing substantial support” to people engaged in hostilities against the US.

The order by Judge Forrest prevents the enforcement of the statute provision, pending further order of the court or an amendment to the statute by the US Congress.