FORT BENNING, Ga. – A preliminary hearing for a Muslim chaplain accused of mishandling classified information from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay (search), Cuba, was postponed Tuesday. The monthlong delay will allow the Army to review documents that defense attorneys seek to have released.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of Guantanamo camp operations, granted a postponement until Jan. 19, said Col. Dan Trimble, the presiding judge in the case against Army Capt. James Yee (search). The Army will use the time to determine whether the documents are classified.
Defense attorneys say they need to see the documents the Army confiscated three months ago from Yee's backpack as he returned from Guantanamo, where he worked with suspected terrorists — most captured during fighting in Afghanistan.
His attorneys have said the documents include two small notebooks, a typewritten page and a term paper on Syria that Yee wrote for a college course on international affairs.
Although reports said Yee was being investigated as part of an espionage probe at Guantanamo, he was never charged with spying.
Instead, the Army is prosecuting him on lesser charges including mishandling classified information — notes found by Customs officials when they searched him on Sept. 10 at the Jacksonville, Fla., airport.
He is also charged with disobeying an order, making a false statement, adultery and storing pornography on his government computer.
Yee, 35, said he plans to ask for leave during the postponement to spend time with his family.
One of his attorneys, Eugene Fidell, hopes the long delay will lead to a dismissal of the charges.
"I think they've blown it," Fidell said. "I'm going to hope this substantial delay does afford them an opportunity to take a fresh look at this, perhaps to reassess the benefits and costs."
Yee, a 1990 West Point graduate who left the military for four years to study Arabic and Islam in Syria, returned as a chaplain and counseled some of the prison's 660 detainees from more than 40 countries.