Trial of Russian militant in U.S. could create congressional spat

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A Russian who fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan could be tried by a military tribunal in the United States, say current and former U.S. officials.

The idea, under consideration by the White House, could set up a confrontation with Congress, which has banned the transfer of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for trial in U.S. courts, the Washington Post reported Monday.


No similar ban is in place for prisoners held by the U.S. military at Bagram air base outside Kabul, where the Russian, known only as Irek Hamidullan, has been held since his capture several years ago.

Hamidullan is among 53 third-country nationals held at Bagram, and questions about their disposition have grown larger as the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces draws closer.

A senior administration official said no final decision has been made about how to deal with the detainees, adding that "repatriation would be our first option with respect to the vast majority."

Fewer than 10 of the detainees could be considered for trial in the United States because of evidentiary and other problems, he said.


Hamidullan is "well-connected in the terrorist world," said an official with knowledge of his case. The militant is thought to have links to several insurgent groups, including those in Chechnya, a member of the Russian Federation that has fought two wars for independence.

Prisoners have been released to their home countries after their government has reached an agreement with the United States that the detainees will not be continuing threats. Russia has not expressed interest in Hamidullan's return.

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