Rights of Somali suspect may pose issue: U.S. judge

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2011 12:58 PM
Rights of Somali suspect may pose issue: U.S. judge

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Questioning by U.S. law enforcement agents overseas of a Somali militant accused of terrorism charges may become a sticking point in his prosecution, the judge overseeing the case said.

Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was captured in waters between Yemen and Somalia in April and interrogated aboard an American Navy ship by a special intelligence team for more than two months.

He was then turned over to the FBI for several days of questioning in late June during which time he waived his Miranda rights multiple times, U.S. officials have said.

The Miranda warning, to be read before questioning under U.S. law in civilian criminal cases, advises suspects of their constitutional rights to remain silent and entitles them to a lawyer.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon told Warsame, who pleaded not guilty to providing material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Somali group Al Shabaab, the issue of Miranda rights might crop up at trial.

"And what I wanted to tell you, I know that the agents, or at least I was informed ... that the agents gave you certain warnings before they talked to you," she said in a transcript of a July 5 federal court proceeding in New York that was made available on Thursday.

"That may become an issue later in the case, I don't know," she said.

Warsame's case has revived the argument between the Obama administration and critics who oppose its plan to prosecute Warsame in civilian court, where suspects are afforded a full suite of constitutional protections.

Republicans and some Democrats want Obama to prosecute terrorism suspects in military courts and to treat them as enemy combatants as was the case for some suspects during the Bush administration.

Civil liberties advocates have said that the interrogations aboard the U.S. Navy ship could jeopardize the case against Warsame.

(Reporting by Basil Katz in New York and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington)