Guantanamo precedent Yemeni wins ruling [Archives:2004/789/Front Page]

November 11 2004

By Yemen Times Staff
and News Services

For the first time in any Guantanamo trial, Yemeni prisoner Salim Ahmed Hamdan, 34, received a positive ruling from a US federal court, when he was granted the right for a legal hearing on whether he is a prisoner of war.
This is a landmark decision given by a judge in a military trial of suspected enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay.
Even though he only worked as the personal driver of Osama bin Laden, Salim Ahmed Hamdan was accused of conspiracy to commit war, murder and terrorism.
The Yemeni authorities expressed hope that such action would be the first step in potential release of Yemeni detainees whom the Yemeni government thinks were not direct combatants.
It was reported that this was the first time a US federal court halted legal proceedings before military commissions. No trials have been held, although tentative trial dates for four detainees have been scheduled.
The U.S. District Court judge in Washington halted the pretrial proceedings of the driver after his lawyers filed a petition. He also rejected the U.S. government's argument that Hamdan and other detainees are not prisoners of war but enemy combatants, a classification affording fewer legal protections under the Geneva Conventions.
Hamdan was declared an enemy combatant last month by a review tribunal during a hearing from which his lawyer was barred.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson said that “there is nothing in this record to suggest that a competent tribunal has determined that Hamdan is not a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions.”
The court also ruled that unless the military commission guidelines are changed to conform to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Hamdan cannot be tried by the commissions and must be moved from the pre-commission wing at the Camp Delta prison camp to the general population.