GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – A U.S. federal court halted proceedings ahead of the military trial of Osama bin Laden (news – web sites)’s driver Monday, saying his status as an enemy combatant had to be determined by a competent tribunal.
The government said it would immediately seek a stay of that ruling and file an appeal.
It was the first time a federal court has halted proceedings ahead of trials before U.S. military commissions, which had been resurrected from World War II, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
A U.S. District Court judge in Washington halted the trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, 34, of Yemen, in a lawsuit filed by his lawyers.
“Unless and until a competent tribunal determines that petitioner is not entitled to protections afforded prisoners of war under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention … of Aug. 12, 1949, he may not be tried by military commission for the offenses with which he is charged,” U.S. District Judge James Robertson said in his ruling.
The appeals court will strike it down, of course, but everybody who stands up makes it that much easier for the next person, and the one after that, and the one after that.
What really freaks me out about this administration’s flagrant disregard for the rule of law isn’t that any of the people in Guantanamo are innocent. I think a lot of them are probably guilty. The point is the precedent set and how it might be expanded upon by later judges and government attorneys: that if you are falsely accused of violating national security, no judge can hear your case.
That’s a fearsome thing to hear in the land of the free.