Verdict in bin Laden driver war crimes trial
The jury in the Hamdan case gives a mixed result, but it's seen as a victory for Bush administration.
The guilty verdict delivered against former Osama bin Laden driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan on Wednesday establishes a legal precedent that will make it easier for prosecutors to convict other suspected war criminals in military commission trials at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Hamdan, a Yemeni national, was convicted of providing material support to a terror group. But the six-member war crimes tribunal also found Hamdan not guilty of charges that he was a willing participant with Al Qaeda in a terror conspiracy.
The split verdict comes in the first war crimes tribunal conducted by the US military since World War II. The military commission, made up of six officers hand-picked by the Pentagon, reached its verdict after eight hours of deliberations over three days.
The conviction marks an important victory for the Bush administration.
The Bush administration has faced a heated debate and a barrage of legal challenges over its plan to use the Guantánamo terror prison camp as a venue for bringing Al Qaeda suspects to justice.
Supporters of the commission system say its stripped-down trial protections are necessary to safeguard sensitive intelligence sources and methods while providing a fair trial. Critics say the process is rigged to produce convictions and cover up alleged torture and other mistreatment of terror suspects.
"Any verdict resulting from such a flawed system is a betrayal of American values," says Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The rules for the Guantánamo military commissions are so flawed that justice could never be served. From start to finish, this has been a monumental debacle of American justice."
Americans might expect that Hamdan, now a convicted war criminal, personally engaged in the ruthless tactics of a terrorist or a mass murderer. But no evidence was presented during the 10-day trial that Hamdan ever personally killed, injured, or harmed anyone.
His participation in Al Qaeda's mass murder was indirect, according to the evidence heard by the military commission. He served as Mr. bin Laden's driver and bodyguard, transported weapons to Al Qaeda members, and received weapons training, according to testimony.
Hamdan's lawyers say these activities are not war crimes and should not be prosecuted as war crimes.
Defense lawyers said Hamdan was a mere employee, a $200-a-month driver for the Al Qaeda leader, not a committed jihadist involved in plotting and carrying out terror attacks.