After an armored van brings Irek Ilgiz Hamidullin to Richmond’s Federal Courthouse from an undisclosed prison, the accused Taliban fighter will become the first man captured in Afghanistan to be prosecuted in the United States.
Beginning at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, jurors from Central Virginia will be selected to decide the fate of the 55-year-old. Prosecutors say Hamidullin, a Russian citizen, was a tank commander in the Soviet military during the 1980s and joined the Taliban in 2001.
The unprecedented criminal case stems from a Nov. 29, 2009 Taliban attack on an Afghan border patrol base near Pakistan. Prosecutors allege Hamidullin masterminded the attack on Camp Leyza, instructing fighters to take aim at American helicopters when Coalition troops learned of the assault.
American military units captured Hamidullin shortly after the attack, eventually transporting him to the United States for trial.
Read the full indictment here against accused Taliban fighter Irek Ilgiz Hamidullin.
The trial is expected to last five days before U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson, with models of grenade launchers, an anti-aircraft machine gun, and part of the Taliban rules and regulations booklet slated to be presented as evidence.
Russia expressed little interest in repatriating the accused Taliban fighter, with the Obama Administration then deciding to use the domestic criminal court system to hear the case.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the choice of Richmond for the trial as opposed to a venue within the Capital Beltway. Federal prosecutors filed the 15 count indictment in the Eastern District of Virginia, which encompasses Alexandria, Richmond and Norfolk.
In English, Hamidullin pleaded not guilty before Judge Hudson during a November hearing. Translators in Russian and Arabic are scheduled to be in the courtroom during the trial.
Court observers note proceedings with Hudson move relatively quickly, with the possibility of a jury seated and opening statements beginning by Thursday afternoon.
Hamidullin is charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, a count that carries the possibility of death. Prosecutors signaled after the indictment was unsealed in November 2014 they will not seek the death penalty.
According to court filings uncovered by NBC12, federal prosecutors and witnesses for the government are not permitted to refer to the defendant as a terrorist, in order to maintain the presumption that Hamidullin is innocent until proven guilty.
The government is also barred from mentioning Osama Bin Laden, but may mention the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 to explain why American troops were in Afghanistan at the time of the Taliban assault.