Military Jury Convicts Bin Laden's Driver of Terrorism; Salim Hamdan Convicted by Jury of American Officers

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

Military Jury Convicts Bin Laden's Driver of Terrorism; Salim Hamdan Convicted by Jury of American Officers


Byline: Wesley Johnson

OSAMA BIN LADEN'S former driver has been found guilty of terrorism at the first US war crimes trial since World War II.

Salim Hamdan was convicted by a jury of American military officers following a two-week trial at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

He was accused of transporting missiles for al-Qaeda and helping bin Laden escape US retribution following the September 11 terror attacks by driving him around Afghanistan.

Hamdan, a Yemeni, faces a maximum life sentence after being convicted of providing material support to terrorism.

But he was cleared of other terror charges, including conspiracy, following around eight hours of jury deliberations over three days.

Hamdan was captured at a roadblock in southern Afghanistan in November 2001, with two surface- to-air missiles in the car and taken to Guantanamo Bay in May 2002.

During the trial, US prosecutors told the jury Hamdan played a "vital role" in the conspiracy behind the September 11, 2001 attacks.

US Department of Justice prosecutor John Murphy said: "al-Qaeda aimed to literally take down the West, to kill thousands, and they have; to create economic havoc, and they have.

"They needed enthusiastic, uncontrollably enthusiastic warriors, like that accused right there, Salim Hamdan."

MrMurphy said Hamdan was a loyal supporter of bin Laden who protected the al-Qaeda leader despite knowing his goals included killing Americans.

But Lieutenant Commander Brian Mizer, Hamdan's Pentagon-appointed defence lawyer, said: "This is a classic case of guilt by association.

"Mr Hamdan is not an al-Qaeda warrior, he is not al-Qaeda's last line of defence - he's not even an al-Qaeda member."

He told the jury Hamdan was a low-level employee who worked for wages, not to wage war on America.

Hamdan admitted working for bin Laden in Afghanistan from 1997 to 2001 for EUR200 (pounds 100) a month, but denied being part of al-Qaeda or taking part in any attacks.

Lawyers for Hamdan said not one witness had testified that he played any part in terrorist attacks. …

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