A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled that the government can jail American citizens as enemy combatants during wartime without the normal constitutional protections given most Americans involved in criminal proceedings.
The Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled Wednesday that Yaser Esam Hamdi can continue to be held in a military jail because he was captured in Afghanistan while fighting alongside the Taleban.
The U.S. government has called him an "enemy combatant" and has kept Mr. Hamdi in prison without access to an attorney and without any charges brought against him.
The appeals court decision overturned an earlier ruling that said Mr. Hamdi, who is a U.S. citizen, should have the right to a lawyer and a chance to see the government's evidence in the case.
The appeals court said Mr. Hamdi was captured "squarely within the zone of combat" and is being lawfully detained.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft hailed the decision, calling it "an important victory for the president's ability to protect the American people in times of war."
In a statement Mr. Ashcroft said "detention of enemy combatants prevents them from rejoining the enemy and continuing to fight against America and its allies."