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Detainee Held In Afghanistan Makes U.S. Appearance In Terrorism Trial

A Russian Taliban member today became the first military detainee from Afghanistan to appear in a federal court.

Irek Hamidullan appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Novak at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond. He has been in U.S. custody since 2009, and was held at the Bagram airfield in Afghanistan. Last month, the White House said Hamidullan, who was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, would be brought into the U.S. criminal justice system.

The Associated Press reportsthat the case marks "the Obama administration's latest attempt to show that it can use the criminal court system to deal with terror suspects."

The Justice Department says Hamidullan took part in an attack on U.S. troops and Afghan police in the Khost Province in November 2009.

Hamidullan, who was shackled and guarded by federal agents, said little, the AP reported. The Justice Departmentsaid he was indicted by a grand jury "on twelve counts, including conspiring to provide and providing material support to terrorists; conspiring and attempting to destroy an aircraft of the armed forces of the United States; conspiring and attempting to murder a national of the United States; and other offenses."

He faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

At the time of the White House announcement in October, NPR spoke to Robert Chesney, a professor of national security law at the University of Texas at Austin, who said Congress prevents the administration from bringing terrorism detainees from the naval detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the U.S. to face trial. But that rule, he says, doesn't apply to those being detained in Afghanistan.

"[I]n a way, bringing Irek Hamidullan into the United States for prosecution is a bit of a pilot," he told NPR's Audie Cornish. "Could we perhaps not only address the lingering elements of detention in Afghanistan this way, might it also be a solution we could reopen for Guantanamo?"

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.