For more than five years, only a few people other than interrogators, human rights group representatives and brig officials have seen Ali Saleh al-Marri, a Qatar native locked up in a special wing inside the Navy's brig in Hanahan.
On Thursday, al-Marri's defense lawyers said they were able to send al-Marri's family a photo of him, the first since the Bush administration classified him as an enemy combatant.
The photo, taken in January by the International Committee of the Red Cross, shows him with a thick beard and wearing a traditional Arab headdress.
Andy Savage, al-Marri's attorney in Charleston, said he had been wanting to send al-Marri's family a photo for years. "I thought it was in the best interest of the American government because it shows that he's been taken care of pretty well by the brig staff."
Savage's wife, Cheryl, said the family received the photo in February. "It was huge deal for them." One of al-Marri's sons, now 8, "has never seen his father," and al-Marri's mother was "beside herself" with emotion, Cheryl Savage said.
Al-Marri was arrested shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and charged with credit card fraud. Shortly before he was scheduled to be tried in civilian courts in 2003, the Bush administration designated him an enemy combatant and moved him to the brig.
His lawyers successfully challenged the detention all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear arguments in the case in April. A federal grand jury, however, last week indicted al-Marri on two counts of providing material support to al-Qaida. Savage said he expects al-Marri to be moved soon from military custody to civilian custody in Illinois but hasn't been given a date.