July 27, 2015 / 3:31 AM / 2 years ago

Accused Russian Taliban's U.S. trial postponed by one day

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - The start of the trial of a former Soviet army officer accused of being a Taliban fighter has been postponed by a day until Tuesday, court records showed late on Sunday.

The suspect, Irek Hamidullin, believed to be in his 50s, faces 15 counts ranging from supporting terrorists to firearms charges stemming from his orchestration of a 2009 attack on an Afghan Border Police base. He is the first military prisoner from Afghanistan to be 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 and transported to the United States from Afghanistan.

The postponement was ordered Friday by the U.S. District Court judge hearing the case. The reason was not immediately clear and neither attorneys nor the court could be reached.

Months of pre-trial hearings and motions in Richmond’s U.S. District Court have centered on whether Hamidullin could be tried in the United States for actions as an insurgent.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson last month rejected a motion by Hamidullin’s attorneys to throw out the indictment.

Hamidullin is charged with commanding a November 2009 attack on the border police base in eastern Afghanistan’s Khost province. Hamidullin allegedly ordered 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.

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.

Federal public defenders are representing Hamidullin. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bill Trott and Chris Michaud

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