U.S. judge allows first Guantanamo war crimes trial

By | July 17, 2008

The first Guantanamo Bay war crimes trial, involving Osama bin Laden’s former driver, can start next week, a federal judge ruled on Thursday, saying the system backed by U.S. President George W. Bush and Congress can stand.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson rejected a request from attorneys for Salim Hamdan, who was the driver for al Qaeda leader bin Laden in Afghanistan, to stop his trial while he challenges the military tribunal system. Robertson read his ruling from the bench after hearing more than two hours of arguments from Hamdan’s lawyers and the U.S. Justice Department over whether the trial should be delayed. It is scheduled 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 Guantanamo, which was set up in January 2002 to hold terrorism suspects captured after the September 11 attacks. Most of those at the base have been held for years without being charged and many have complained of abuse. Hamdan’s attorneys said a landmark U.S. 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 that the proceeding should be put on hold.

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. – reuters

So we can torture people and they can’t complain until after a trial?

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