Judge clears Gitmo jurisdiction appeal

Sept. 25, 2007 at 4:17 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- A military trial judge has the authority to determine jurisdiction in a military commission, a military appeals court ruled Monday in Washington.

The ruling paves the way for proceedings to continue against suspected terrorists at the y Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to the American Forces Press Service.

In June a military trial judge dismissed charges against Canadian detainee Omar Khadr, who was charged in April with murder and support to terrorism among other charges. The judge ruled that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because Khadr was not officially classified as an enemy combatant. This ruling was based on the Military Commissions Act requiring detainees to be classified as alien unlawful enemy combatants before they can be tried by a commission.

Even if the prosecution could present evidence showing the accused was an unlawful enemy combatant the judge also ruled that it wasn’t the military commission’s role to determine jurisdiction.

After several appeals the prosecution filed an appeal in July with the Court of Military Commission Review challenging the judge’s dismissal of the case, which resulted in Monday's announced ruling.

Officials say the ruling gives the military judge authority to ascertain whether jurisdiction exists to try Khadr.

“Both the prosecution and defense have been vigorously preparing for this day, whatever the outcome,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser to the Office of Military Commissions Convening Authority, in a statement. “We have a ruling from the (Court of Military Commissions Review) that tells us how the military judge can determine jurisdiction. Now it is time to move forward.”

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