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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Federal Court Rules Against Camp X-Ray

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- A federal judge ruled Monday that U.S. President George W. Bush had both overstepped his constitutional bounds and improperly brushed aside the Geneva Conventions in establishing military commissions to try detainees at the U.S. naval base here as war criminals.

The ruling by Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court in Washington brought an abrupt halt to the trial of one detainee, one of hundreds being held here as enemy combatants, and threw into doubt the future of the first U.S. military commission trials since the end of World War II, as well as other legal proceedings devised by the administration to deal with suspected terrorists.

Robertson ruled against the government in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan who is facing terrorism charges. Hamdan's lawyers had asked the court to declare the military commission process fatally flawed.

The ruling and its timing had a theatrical effect on the courtroom here where pretrial proceedings were underway with Hamdan, a 34-year-old Yemeni in a flowing white robe, seated next to his lawyers. About 30 minutes into the afternoon proceedings, the presiding officer, Colonel Peter Brownback, was handed a note from a Marine sergeant. Brownback immediately called a recess and rushed from the room with the commission's two other officers. When he returned, he announced that the proceeding was in recess indefinitely and he departed quickly.

Mark Corallo, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement, "The process struck down by the district court today was carefully crafted to protect America from terrorists while affording those charged with violations of the laws of war with fair process, and the department will make every effort to have this process restored through appeal."

Corallo said, "By conferring protected legal status under the Geneva Conventions on members of al-Qaida, the judge has put terrorism on the same legal footing as legitimate methods of waging war."