US: Amnesty slams Bin Laden driver’s Guantanamo trial

AKI | Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s former driver, Salim Hamdan, convicted by a US military jury on Wednesday of supporting terrorism, did not receive a fair trial, said rights group Amnesty International.

“The conviction of Salim Hamdan under procedures that do not meet international fair trial standards compounds the injustice of his more than five years’ unlawful detention in Guantanamo,” London-based Amnesty International stated.

The verdict on Yemeni-born Hamdan is the first to be delivered in a full war crimes trial at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The US government said Hamdan had received “a fair trial”.

Sentencing was due to begin later on Wednesday and Hamdan, aged around 40, faces a possible life term.

The case could yet go to the US Supreme Court.

Amnesty said it believed the entire military commission system to be “fundamentally flawed”.

Military Commissions Law allows hearsay evidence and evidence gathered from coercive interrogation methods to be used. The public is not allowed to attend trials and legal documents are often never released.

Amnesty called for military tribunals to be abandoned and for terrorism suspects detained at Guantanamo to be tried in ordinary civilian courts in the US “without resort to the death penalty.”

The group also reiterated earlier calls for the Guantanamo prison camp to be shut down. About 270 suspects remain in detention there.

Hamdan was convicted by a panel of six US military officers of “providing material support for terrorism” and acquitted of “conspiracy”.

The US Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday that Hamdan would remain in indefinite detention as an “enemy combatant” regardless of the verdict.

The prosecution had said Hamdan played a “vital role” in the conspiracy behind Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks against the US and was “an uncontrollably enthusiastic warrior” for the terror network.

But defence lawyers claimed Hamdan was a low-level employee.

Hamdan had admitted working for Bin Laden in Afghanistan from 1997 to 2001 for 200 dollars a month, but said he worked for wages, not to make war on the US.