GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A U.S. federal
court halted proceedings ahead of the military trial of Osama bin
Laden’s driver yesterday, saying his status as an enemy
combatant had to be determined by a competent tribunal.

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 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.

Four terror suspects set to go before the commissions were moved
out of solitary cells recently to a pre-commission wing of
Delta.

Hamdan’s military-appointed defense lawyer, Lt. Cmdr.
Charlie Swift, also asked the commission yesterday to reinstate two
members and an alternate who were dismissed after challenges to
their impartiality.

Swift said he would not have challenged them in August if he
knew his client would be penalized by facing a smaller three-member
commission.

Hamdan’s military trial was to have begun Dec. 7 at this
U.S. base in eastern Cuba.

The ruling in Washington came as lawyers began pretrial motion
hearings in the case of Hamdan, who is charged with conspiracy to
commit war crimes, murder and terrorism.

Hamdan said he never supported terrorism, was not an al-Qaida
member and only earned a pittance driving bin Laden.

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