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Rights groups say US wrongly applies witness law to hold Muslim terror suspects

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] released a joint report [text] Sunday claiming that the Bush administration has violated the material witness law by detaining nearly 70 terrorism suspects since September 11 without enough criminal evidence to keep them. All but one of the detainees were Muslims. The law permits witnesses who could potentially flee prior to testifying in criminal cases to be arrested and detained. The two groups say the law "has been twisted beyond recognition," alleging that just 28 of the 70 suspects held were ultimately charged and 30 had never been called to testify in front of a court or grand jury. The US Department of Justice [official website] has declined to come forward with information on how many times it has used the material witness law. Senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Sen. Patrick Leahy [official website] said he is contemplating proposing legislation to put parameters around the law's usage. Read a preliminary report [PDF] on the abuse of the material witness law by Anjana Malhotra, who also authored the advocacy report released Sunday. AP has more.

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