Washington A federal appeals court Friday reinstated the use of military tribunals established by the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay and cleared the way for the trial of a chauffeur for Osama bin Laden.
The three-judge panel unanimously found that the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan should move forward under rules set by the Pentagon, a significant victory for the Bush administration's controversial policies in the war on terror.
In its ruling, the panel sided with the administration's claim that Hamdan and the other 14 terrorist suspects slated for trial by the military commissions do not qualify for prisoner of war status and protections under the Geneva Convention, which govern the rights of prisoners of war.
"The president found that Hamdan was not a prisoner of war under the convention," Judge A. Raymond Randolph wrote for the panel. "Nothing in the regulations, and nothing Hamdan argues, suggests that the president is not a 'competent authority' for these purposes."
Neal Katyal, an attorney for Hamdan, attacked the ruling, claiming it ignored "200 years of constitutional law."
"Today's ruling places absolute trust in the president, unchecked by the Constitution, statutes of Congress, and longstanding treaties ratified by the Senate of the United States," Katyal said. "It gives the president the raw authority to expand military tribunals without limit, threatening the system of international law and armed conflict worldwide."