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Declare Boston suspect an ‘enemy combatant’, President Barack Obama urged

Declaration would deny him protection of the criminal justice system

Gulf News

Washington: Some Republican lawmakers want President Barack Obama to declare the surviving Boston bombing suspect an enemy combatant in order to question him without a lawyer and other protections of the criminal justice system, intensifying a recurring debate over how to handle terrorism cases arising inside the United States.

But while the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a naturalised US citizen, is a Muslim, there is no known evidence suggesting that he is part of Al Qaida. The United States is engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaida, not all Muslim extremists. As a result, the dispute is pushing beyond familiar arguments and into new territory.

Senator Lindsey Graham is the earliest and most vocal proponent of declaring Tsarnaev an enemy combatant. Others include Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and John McCain of Arizona as well as Representative Peter T. King of New York, all also Republicans.

The Obama administration has said that it thinks terrorism suspects arrested inside the United States should be handled exclusively in the criminal justice system. It has indicated no intention to do otherwise in Tsarnaev’s case, but the issue is taking on political currency, underscoring a major divide on national-security legal policy.