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Supreme Court declines to enter fray on detainee trials

Monday's action helps to clear the way for the next military trials against terror suspects at Guantánamo Bay.

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The US Supreme Court has helped clear the way for the next round of special trials by military commissions at the terror detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

On Monday, the court declined to take up a joint appeal filed by former Osama bin Laden driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen and Omar Khadr, a Canadian national, who faces murder charges for allegedly throwing a hand grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan. Mr. Khadr was 15 years old at the time.

Following the recent guilty plea by Australian David Hicks, Khadr and Mr. Hamdan are designated as the next detainees slated for commission trials at Guantánamo. Last week, Khadr's case was formally referred to a military commission for trial.

While Mr. Hicks's guilty plea technically provided the first conviction under the new military commission process, that process remains largely untested in the crucible of an ongoing trial.

Hamdan's case has already been the subject of an important Supreme Court decision. It provided the vehicle by which the high court last June invalidated the Bush administration's military commission process. In reaction to that decision, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, undercutting or reversing several high-court holdings dealing with detainees in the war on terror.

Lawyers for the two Guantánamo detainees had urged the justices to take up their cases to examine the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act (MCA). They also asked the justices to determine whether alleged enemy combatants facing military commission trials are protected by basic constitutional rights, including the right to file habeas corpus challenges in US federal courts.

"The eyes of the world will be on these trials, and it will be extremely detrimental for them to take place in the legal vacuum created by this administration at Guantánamo," Hamdan's lawyer, Neal Katyal, told a Senate hearing on Thursday.

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