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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Yemeni Detainee to Face Military Commission

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2004 - An enemy combatant from Yemen being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will face a military commission on terrorism-related conspiracy charges, Defense Department officials announced today.

The commission appointing authority, John D. Altenburg Jr., approved and referred charges against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, said Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita at a news conference here.

Among the charges Hamdan faces are conspiring to commit attacks against civilians, to commit murder by an unprivileged belligerent, and to commit terrorism.

An unprivileged belligerent, officials explained, is someone who engages in hostilities who is not authorized to do so by the rules of war.

In referring the charges, Altenburg designated a presiding officer and four panel members - all military officers -- who will hear the case. A trail date has not been set, DoD officials said. Besides this case, the panel will hear three others that were referred June 29.

Retired Army Col. Peter E. Brownback III, who has 22 years of experience as a judge advocate and nearly 10 years of experience as a military judge, will be the presiding officer; he will be recalled to active duty to serve in this role, DoD officials said. The panel will include two Marine Corps colonels, along with a colonel and a lieutenant colonel from the Air Force, and the case will be tried at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.

Officials said Hamdan's alleged role in providing physical security for Osama bin Laden and other high-ranking officials of the al Qaeda terror network will be used in forming the case against him.

The military commission process, officials said, provides for presumption of innocence, proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, representation by a military defense counsel free of charge with the option to retain a civilian defense counsel at no expense to the government, the opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses, no adverse inference if an accused person chooses not to testify, and an appeal to an independent and impartial review panel.

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