Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • EU leaders choose Tusk and Mogherini for top jobs, discuss Russia sanctions

    Read more

  • Dozens of UN peacekeepers still held by Syrian jihadists

    Read more

  • Opposition protesters clash with Pakistani police outside PM's house

    Read more

  • Austerity row overshadows French Socialist’s annual rally

    Read more

  • Egypt sentences Brotherhood leader Badie to life

    Read more

  • Ceasfire allows Gaza families to relax on the beach

    Read more

  • S. Africa condemns 'military coup' in Lesotho

    Read more

  • Kerry calls for 'coalition of nations' to battle IS militants

    Read more

  • Ukrainian plane with seven on board crashes in Algeria

    Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns Russia of more sanctions

    Read more

  • IMF backs Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

US judge backs trial of bin Laden's ex-driver

Latest update : 2008-07-18

The first-ever Guantanamo war crimes trial, involving Salim Hamdan, is set for Monday after a US judge rejected a last-ditch attempt by Hamdam's lawyers to halt his trial. The Yemeni national served as Osama bin Laden's driver before 2001.

 

The first Guantanamo Bay war crimes trial, of Osama bin Laden's former driver, can start next week, a federal judge ruled on Thursday, refusing to intervene in the military process backed by President George W. Bush and Congress.

 

U.S. District Judge James Robertson rejected a request from attorneys for Salim Hamdan, who drove for the al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, to stop his trial while he challenges the military tribunal system.

 

Robertson heard more than two hours of arguments from Hamdan's lawyers and the Justice Department over whether the trial should be delayed. It is due to start on July 21.

 

Hamdan, a Yemeni, would be the first prisoner tried in the U.S. war crimes court at the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba. There are about 265 detainees at base's prison camp, which was set up in January 2002 to hold terrorism suspects captured after the Sept. 11 attacks by al Qaeda in 2001.

 

Most have been held for years without being charged and many have complained of abuse.

 

Hamdan's attorneys said a landmark Supreme Court ruling last month made clear the detainees are entitled to fundamental constitutional rights.

 

"Guantanamo once was a constitution-free zone. It no longer is," Georgetown University law professor Neal Katyal, one of the lawyers for Hamdan, said in arguing for a delay.

 

But the judge sided with the arguments by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John O'Quinn, who said a 2006 law backed by Bush allows such challenges only after a trial takes place.

 

The Guantanamo trials are the first U.S. war crimes tribunals since World War Two. They were set up to try non-American captives whom the Bush administration considers "enemy combatants" not entitled to the legal protections granted to soldiers and civilians.

 

Human rights groups have criticized the Guantanamo prison and trial system as inherently unfair.

 

'FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS'

 

"We're disappointed in the court's decision but we look forward to, in the military commissions process, defending Mr. Hamdan," said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, a military defense lawyer.

 

"He's a driver and a mechanic, not a member of al Qaeda and not guilty of materially supporting terrorism."

 

Mizer said Hamdan's trial was "not going to be full, open and fair as the government has alleged."

 

"There are fundamental flaws in this system," he said.

 

Army Col. Lawrence Morris, chief prosecutor of the Guantanamo tribunals, said he was pleased with the ruling and that it could mean more prisoners charged more quickly.

 

"We had planned to continue forward in any event. Obviously it gives us more confidence to do so," Morris told reporters.

 

Robertson noted the law authorizing the tribunals allows a prisoner to go to the U.S. Court of Appeals after his trial at the base. He also cited a recent ruling by the appeals court that another Guantanamo prisoner cannot bring an appeal until after his military tribunal trial has taken place.

 

Spokesman Erik Ablin said the Justice Department was pleased with the decision and that the government looks forward to presenting its case against Hamdan.

 

Thursday's ruling was the latest in Hamdan's lawyers' challenge to the tribunal system that Bush created after the Sept. 11 attacks. Robertson and then the Supreme Court ruled for Hamdan in 2006, but Bush got the Republican-led Congress to adopt the 2006 legislation establishing the current system.

 

Date created : 2008-07-18

COMMENT(S)