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Bin Laden's former driver found guilty

Latest update : 2008-08-07

Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, has been found guilty of providing material support for terrorism by a US military court at Guantanamo Bay. The court acquitted him on additional charges of providing material support for al Qaeda.

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba, Aug 6 (Reuters) - A
military court on Wednesday convicted Osama bin Laden's driver
of supporting terrorism but acquitted him on the more serious
charge of conspiring with al Qaeda in the first U.S. war crimes
trial since World War Two.

The trial of Yemeni captive Salim Hamdan at the remote U.S.
naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was the first full test of
the controversial tribunal authorized by the Bush
administration to try foreign captives on terrorism charges
outside the regular U.S. court system.

The White House welcomed the conviction while human rights
and civil liberties groups condemned it.

The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for Wednesday
afternoon for Hamdan, who faces a maximum penalty of life in

The jurors deliberated a little over eight hours before
reaching their verdict.

Hamdan, wearing a white turban and long white robe topped
with a tan blazer, stood tensely in the courtroom beside his
lawyers as the verdict was announced, listening through
headphones to the English-Arabic interpreter. He raised his
hands and wept into them as the guilty verdict was read.

In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the
administration was pleased that Hamdan received a fair trial
and looked forward to trying other Guantanamo captives.

"The Military Commission system is a fair and appropriate
legal process for prosecuting detainees alleged to have
committed crimes against the United States or our interests. We
look forward to other cases moving forward to trial," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it viewed the
tribunal process as deeply flawed.

"Any verdict resulting from such a flawed system is a
betrayal of American values. The rules for the Guantanamo
military commissions are so flawed that justice could never be
served. From start to finish, this has been a monumental
debacle of American justice," said ACLU Executive Director
Anthony Romero in a statement.


The jury of military officers heard two weeks of testimony,
including that of 10 federal agents who interrogated Hamdan
without warning him that his confessions would be used against
him in a criminal trial.

It was the Bush administration's third attempt to try
Hamdan, who won a Supreme Court victory that scrapped the first
version of the Guantanamo court system in 2006. The charges
were twice dropped and refiled

The charges he was cleared of on Wednesday -- two counts of
conspiring with al Qaeda to attack civilians, destroy property,
commit murder in violation of the laws of war -- were the only
charges against him in the first prosecution attempt.

"The travesty of this verdict now is that had the case gone
to trial in 2004 he would have been acquitted of all the
charges," said Deputy Chief Defense Counsel Michael Berrigan.

Hamdan was convicted on Wednesday of five counts of
providing material support for terrorism, specifically that his
personal services to al Qaeda included driving and acting as a
bodyguard for a man he knew to be the leader of an
international terrorist organization.

The 11-page verdict form was so complicated that the judge
called for a yellow highlighter pen and marked the portions the
jury president was to read. Jurors were allowed to strike some
of the language in the charges, so some specifics of the
verdict were not immediately clear.

The rules allow four levels of appeal, first to the
Pentagon appointee overseeing the Guantanamo tribunals. She can
overturn convictions and shorten the sentence but cannot add
convictions or lengthen the sentence.

After that, Hamdan could appeal to a special military
appeals court, then to the U.S. federal appeals court in
Washington and finally to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Date created : 2008-08-07