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Criminal Procedure Keyed to Ohlin
Ashcroft v. al-Kidd
Citation:563 U.S. 731 (2011)
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The federal material-witness statute authorizes judges to order the arrest of a person whose testimony is material in a criminal proceeding if it is shown that it may become impracticable to secure the presence of the person by subpoena. Abdullah al-Kidd alleges that in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft authorized federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials to use the material-witness statute to detain individuals with suspected ties to terrorist organizations. It is alleged that this pretextual detention policy led to the material-witness arrest of al-Kidd, a native-born United States citizen. FBI agents apprehended him in March 2003 as he checked in for a flight to Saudi Arabia. Two days earlier, federal officials had informed a judge that, if al-Kidd boarded his flight, they believed information crucial to the prosecution of Sami Omar al-Hussayen would be lost. Al-Kidd remained in federal custody for 16 days and on supervised release until al-Hussayen’s trial concluded 14 months later.
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