Military judge sets terms for Hamdan questioning of Guantanamo detainees

[JURIST] US military judge Navy Capt. Keith Allred Wednesday set down terms under which Guantanamo Bay detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] can question suspected al Qaeda leaders currently in US custody at Guantanamo as part of his defense effort. Hamdan's defense team had asked for "two-way" communications to be allowed between Hamdan and several other detainees, but the government argued that allowing such a communication would jeopardize national security. Allred ruled that Hamdan's signature could be included on requests for information drafted by the government, and that any responses to Hamdan's questions would be screened by the government before being turned over to the defense team. Hamdan's defense lawyers hope to show that he was merely an employee of Osama bin Laden, and not a high-level al Qaeda terrorist. Wednesday's decision follows an earlier ruling [JURIST report] allowing questioning of certain Guantanamo detainees.

Allred said Wednesday that he hoped the ruling would encourage Hamdan to resume an active role in his defense. As pre-trial hearings in his case got underway this week, Hamdan announced that he planned to boycott his military commission trial [JURIST report]. During a Tuesday hearing, he appeared apologetic for the decision, but said that he did not believe the military commission system would bring justice [Miami Herald report]. Hamdan did not attend Wednesday's hearing. His trial by military commission is set for June 2, and Allred said Wednesday that it would proceed whether or not Hamdan participates. AP 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.

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