SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A judge has refused to postpone the trial of former Osama bin Laden driver Salim Hamdan, saying the defense has enough time to study a recent Supreme Court decision and see how it might apply to the first Guantanamo war crimes tribunal.
Navy Capt. Keith Allred, the military judge in the case, had already postponed Hamdan's trial once and said it should now go on as planned on July 21.
"The defense has had ample time to raise the issues it now seeks additional time to raise," Allred said in a ruling released Friday by the Pentagon.
Allred warned prosecutors, who are preparing to bring nearly two dozen witnesses to Guantanamo for the weeklong trial, that the defense might still raise constitutional issues based on the Supreme Court ruling that will force him to postpone the trial.
The judge will consider defense and prosecution motions at pretrial hearings scheduled to begin July 14 at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.
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 the 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 have 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 significant role in terrorism. The government, however, says he was the terrorist leader's personal driver, helping him evade U.S. retribution following the Sept. 11 attacks.