US judge backs trial of bin Laden's ex-driver
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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.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson rejected a request from attorneys for Salim Hamdan, who drove for the al Qaeda leader in
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
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.
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.
Human rights groups have criticized the
"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
"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
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.
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