MILITARY

Taliban fighter case stirs question on law of armed conflict

  • FILE- This Nov. 7, 2014, artist rendering shows, Irek Hamidullin, front center, his attorney Robert Wagner, front left, and interpreter Ihab Samra, front right, as Judge Henry Hudson, left, listens in Federal Court in Richmond, Va. Two years after being sent to the United States to face charges in an attempted attack on American forces in Afghanistan, Irek Hamidullin  is arguing he should never have been prosecuted at all. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren, File)

    FILE- This Nov. 7, 2014, artist rendering shows, Irek Hamidullin, front center, his attorney Robert Wagner, front left, and interpreter Ihab Samra, front right, as Judge Henry Hudson, left, listens in Federal Court in Richmond, Va. Two years after being sent to the United States to face charges in an attempted attack on American forces in Afghanistan, Irek Hamidullin is arguing he should never have been prosecuted at all. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • This photo provided by the U.S. Justice Department shows Irek Hamidullin, a Russian captured by U.S. Army on Nov. 29, 2009, in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. Two years after being sent to the U.S. to face charges in an attempted attack on American forces in Afghanistan, Irek Hamidullin  is arguing he should never have been prosecuted at all.  (U.S. Justice Department via AP)

    This photo provided by the U.S. Justice Department shows Irek Hamidullin, a Russian captured by U.S. Army on Nov. 29, 2009, in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. Two years after being sent to the U.S. to face charges in an attempted attack on American forces in Afghanistan, Irek Hamidullin is arguing he should never have been prosecuted at all. (U.S. Justice Department via AP)  (The Associated Press)

A former Russian army officer who defected to fight alongside Taliban-affiliated forces is now arguing he should never have been prosecuted at all.

Irek Hamidullin contends he deserves to be treated as a lawful combatant with prisoner of war status. A judge rejected those arguments before Hamidullin was convicted last year and given a life sentence.

A federal appeals court takes up the matter Dec. 9.

There's been only one criminal prosecution in the last 15 years in which a court considered whether a Taliban fighter enjoyed combatant immunity. Then, the judge ruled for the government.

The U.S. is among nations that distinguish between acts committed by soldiers during war and violent acts outside an international conflict.

The government and Hamidullin are at odds on what category he falls into.