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US Justice Department calls for Hamdan trial to begin on schedule
US Justice Department calls for Hamdan trial to begin on schedule

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Monday asked [filing, PDF] a judge at the US District Court for the District of Columbia to deny a motion by Guantanamo Bay detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] to stay his trial, now scheduled to begin July 21. Hamdan's lawyers argued [motion, PDF; memorandum, PDF] earlier this month that the trial should be postponed until the court rules on the jurisdiction and legality of Hamdan's military commission, but the DOJ responded:

Implicitly acknowledging that he has no serious challenge to the commission’s jurisdiction (much less a likelihood of success on the merits), petitioner instead argues that his trial by the military commission would result in a violation of various asserted constitutional rights. The Court need not reach these issues if it decides either that it lack[s] jurisdiction or that abstention is appropriate. In any event, it is far from clear that petitioner even has any claim to the constitutional rights asserted.

The government said that the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] only gave detainees the right to challenge their detention, not to challenge their trials once they became defendants, and that Hamdan's trial is legal because of his status as an alien, an illegal enemy combatant and someone charged with war violations. Hamdan's response is due Wednesday, and oral arguments are scheduled for Thursday. AFP has more.

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.