Judge denies delay in bin Laden driver trial

June 27, 2008 6:12:49 AM PDT
A judge has denied a defense motion to postpone the trial of former Osama bin Laden driver Salim Hamdan, a spokesman for the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals said Friday. The military judge said pretrial hearings will go forward as planned on July 14 with the trial itself set to begin a week later at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, Joseph DellaVedova, a spokesman for the Office of Military Commissions, told The Associated Press.

Navy Capt. Keith Allred issued the ruling Thursday but it was not expected to be released by the Pentagon until later Friday.

Hamdan, a Yemeni, faces up to life in prison if convicted of supporting terrorism. He is one of 19 Guantanamo prisoners with charges pending against him; the U.S. has said it plans to prosecute about 80.

Hamdan's military lawyer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, sought to delay his trial, arguing that a June 12 Supreme Court ruling on Guantanamo prisoners established new rights for his client. He planned to file additional motions seeking to dismiss the charges.

The trial originally was scheduled to begin June 2. Allred postponed it pending a decision from the court, which ultimately ruled that all detainees the right to petition federal judges for release.

Hamdan's lawyers admit he worked for bin Laden, but say he was just a minor employee with no role in terrorism or attacks on the U.S. and its allies. The government, however, says he was the terrorist leader's personal driver, helping him evade U.S. retribution following the Sept. 11 attacks.