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The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to speed up the handling of a case brought by a Guantanamo Bay detainee challenging the military commissions the Defense Department plans to use to try accused foreign terrorists. Lawyers for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni citizen who allegedly once was a driver for Osama bin Laden, asked the high court to take up Hamdan’s case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rules on it. The appeals court has scheduled a March 8 hearing on his case. If Hamdan loses, he can appeal again to the Supreme Court, but now a final ruling is unlikely before the end of this year. Georgetown University Law Center professor Neal Katyal, who leads the legal team representing Hamdan, asked the high court for the rarely granted “certiorari before judgment” in light of the fact that Hamdan has been detained at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo “for three years without process.” Katyal also said that dozens of other foreign nationals are facing similar proceedings and should know whether the rules governing the commissions withstand court scrutiny. Retired military officials, human rights groups and several foreign political leaders filed briefs asking the Supreme Court to review the case quickly. Hamdan asserts that Guantanamo detainees like himself are protected by Geneva Conventions and laws of war, and that the rules for military commissions promulgated in 2002 do not comply. Last November, U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled in Hamdan’s favor, finding that the procedures do not satisfy the Third Geneva Convention, in part because they deprive Hamdan of the right to attend parts of his hearing before the military commission and to hear the evidence against him. Even though Hamdan won below, his lawyers sought to bring the case to the high court directly. The government, in a brief by acting Solicitor General Paul Clement, said Supreme Court review would be premature and attacked Robertson’s ruling as “an unprecedented judicial intrusion” on presidential wartime prerogatives.

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