Detainee trial's fairness up for debate

Aug. 5, 2008 at 10:03 AM
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GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The first U.S. war crimes trial since World War II has observers debating whether the military commission system offered the defendant a fair trial.

The trial of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Salim Hamdan, Obama bin Laden's driver, was handed to the jury Monday and whether it was fair depends on the observer, USA Today reported Tuesday.

John Altenburg, a retired U.S. Army major general who oversaw the commissions from 2004-06, said Hamdan was given as good a defense as an enemy fighter has been allowed.

"What's important is the process," Altenburg told USA Today. "And clearly the process has passed muster as full and fair."

However, Stacy Sullivan, a counter-terrorism adviser for Human Rights Watch, said the tribunal permitted tainted evidence and Hamdan was denied basic rights.

"I don't think that anybody could argue that this was a fair trial," said Sullivan, who observed the trial at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

Trial judge U.S. Navy Capt. Keith Allred's ruled for both the defense and prosecution, said Kyndra Rotunda, a one-time legal adviser to Guantanamo military investigators.

"He's ruled both in favor of the defense on some motions and in favor of the prosecution," Rotunda told USA Today. "What you have is a judge that suggests a level of fairness."

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