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Jury deliberation begins in Hamdan military commission trial

[JURIST] The prosecution for the military commissions trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] moved [Reuters report] Tuesday for the judge to recall the jury and issue new instructions on what constitutes a war crime. Prosecutors said that the instructions given by presiding judge Navy Capt. Keith Allred were flawed, but defense lawyers responded that if that were the case, the judge would have to declare a mistrial. Allred rejected the prosecution's claim, noting that even if he had issued flawed instructions, the motion came after the start of jury deliberations and thus was invalid. The jury [Miami Herald report], made up of six military officers, was selected on July 21, and the trial lasted for two weeks before deliberations began Monday. Hamdan is charged [charge sheet, PDF] with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. The Miami Herald has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.

Hamdan has been in US custody since 2001 when he was captured in Afghanistan and accused of working as Osama Bin Laden's driver. In 2006 he successfully challenged US President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the commission system as initially constituted violated US and international law. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system. In April, Hamdan announced that he planned to boycott his military commission trial, and in May a military judge delayed the trial [JURIST reports] until July. A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia subsequently rejected [JURIST report] a bid by Hamdan's lawyers to stay his trial, ruling that a civilian court should refrain from reviewing the case until the military commission issues a final judgment. In July, Allred denied [JURIST report] Hamdan's motion to dismiss the charges against him, holding that the military commission assigned to his trial had jurisdiction to hear the case. If convicted, Hamdan could face life in prison.

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