Trial for Bin Laden?s Driver Will Begin, Rules D.C. Federal Judge
By Ashby Jones
Osama bin Laden’s chauffeur, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, left, appears with appointed council Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, right, during a preliminary hearing at Gitmo, Aug. 24, 2004. (Credit: AP/Pool, Art Lein)
At long last, the first trial of a Guantanamo detainee will actually happen, and it will involve Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former driver. Washington, D.C., federal judge James Robertson on Thursday paved the way for the trial to start, rebuffing a last-minute plea for postponement from lawyers for Salim Hamdan. Here are stories from the NYT and WaPo.
On Thursday, Robertson ruled that Hamdan’s claims that the military commission he faces is unconstitutional can be appealed to a civilian court only after his military trial is completed.
In 2004, Judge Robertson ruled that the original procedures set for military commissions by President Bush were inadequate, a finding later upheld by the Supreme Court. In response, Congress in 2006 passed the Military Commissions Act, setting up new procedures for the trials. But on Thursday, after hearing two hours of arguments from lawyers for Hamdan and the government, Judge Robertson said the Congressional action was sufficient to permit the trial to begin.
“Hamdan is to face a military commission designed by Congress under guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court,” the judge said.
The ruling came after two hours of arguments from Hamdan’s lawyers, Neal Katyal and Joseph McMillan, and a deputy assistant attorney general, John C. O’Quinn. Hamdan’s attorneys argued that to proceed with the military trial now would irreparably injure Hamdan, because testimony based on hearsay and coercive interrogation methods will be allowed.
“At a minimum, Mr. Hamdan deserves his day in court — this court,” Katyal said.
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