US defence lawyers have joined the growing row over the imprisonment at sea of a Libyan associate of Osama bin Laden, demanding access and questioning why he had not been brought before a judge immediately.
Human rights groups have condemned the raid in which Abu Anas al-Libi was captured outside his home in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Saturday, and the decision to hold him on an American warship, the USS San Antonio.
Because he is not on US territory he does not have to be accorded US legal rights, the same rationale as that used in the decision to build the Guantanamo Bay internment camp.
Libya has protested and Islamists have called for a demonstration tomorrow. Now the New York public defender's office is demanding to be appointed to represent Mr al-Libi, according to a letter obtained by 'The Daily Telegraph' in Britain.
It says that because he has already been indicted by a New York court over the 1998 US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, which killed 224 people, he must be treated like any defendant arrested outside the US and "taken without unnecessary delay before a magistrate judge".
The letter, from David Patton, executive director of the court's federal defenders, to the judge presiding over the case, adds: "I am not aware of any lawful basis for the delay."
It raises new questions about the legality of President Barack Obama's use of measures passed after the September 11 attacks in 2001 to capture and interrogate terrorist suspects abroad.
He has ended "extraordinary rendition", sending suspects to third party countries. The USS Antonio, being at sea, is neither US territory nor a "third party country". However, the Geneva Convention insists that prisoners-of-war must be held on land.
Mr al-Libi was returning from dawn prayers when his car was surrounded on Saturday. He was disarmed and dragged away, and is now said to be likely to face lengthy questioning by a so-called "High Value Detainee Interrogation Group", led by FBI officers.
Only after that will he be offered a lawyer and questioned in connection with the case for which he has been charged.
In 1995, after being expelled from Sudan with other senior al-Qai'da leaders, he won political asylum in the UK and, according to his family, worked in a pizza restaurant in Manchester. After coming under suspicion for the East African embassy bombings, he fled to Afghanistan, and spent 10 years detained in Iran before returning to Libya. (© Daily Telegraph, London)