Senators question State Department on military tribunals

U.S. citizens who fought for the Taliban could not be prosecuted by President Bush's military tribunals as they are now envisioned, the State Department's war crimes expert told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Pierre-Richard Prosper, the State Department's ambassador-at- large for war crimes, told senators that, under Bush's order, only non-Americans charged with war crimes relating to international terror can be brought in front of a military tribunal.

An injured man who identified himself as John Walker is receiving medical care from U.S. forces after he emerged from a fortress in the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Bush said he does not know what would happen with Walker. "We're trying to figure that out," Bush said.

At the hearing, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., asked Prosper: "If he was charged with a crime, he could not be tried in front of a military tribunal by the President's definition. Is that true?"

"The definition is limited to non-Americans,'' Prosper said.

The committee held the hearing to "help flesh out some ... issues before we talk to the attorney general," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who chaired the hearing. Attorney General John Ashcroft appears before the committee Thursday.

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