Accused Russian Taliban's U.S. trial postponed indefinitely

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 27, 2015 10:28 AM

(Reuters) - The trial set for U.S. federal court in Virginia of a former Soviet army officer accused of being a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan has been postponed indefinitely, a spokesman for prosecutors said on Monday.

The trial of the Russian man, Irek Hamidullin, had been scheduled to begin on Monday in Richmond. Hamidullin, believed to be in his 50s, faces 15 criminal counts ranging from supporting terrorists to firearms charges stemming from his alleged orchestration of a 2009 attack on an Afghan border police base.

He was due to be the first military prisoner from Afghanistan tried in U.S. federal court.

Hamidullin, a former Soviet officer and tank commander in

the early 1980s, was indicted by a grand jury in October 2014.

The trial in U.S. District Court has been postponed indefinitely, Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said in an email. Stueve did not give a reason for the postponement.

A one-day delay, until Tuesday, had been ordered on Friday by Judge Henry Hudson with no explanation given.

Pre-trial hearings and motions have centered on whether Hamidullin could be tried in the United States for actions as an insurgent. Hudson last month rejected a motion by Hamidullin's attorneys to throw out the indictment.

Hamidullin is accused of commanding a November 2009 attack on a border police base in eastern Afghanistan's Khost province.

Hamidullin is accused of ordering his men to set up a machine gun and a recoilless rifle to fire on U.S. military helicopters. After the attack failed, Hamidullin opened fire on Afghan and U.S. forces with a machine gun, prosecutors said.

He was wounded and captured as the sole Taliban survivor of the assault. No Afghans or Americans were killed.

The charges against Hamidullin include attempting to destroy a U.S. military aircraft, conspiracy and attempting to kill a U.S. official.

U.S. federal public defenders are representing Hamidullin. He faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Will Dunham)