Bin Laden’s driver is cleared in terror case
THE conviction of Osama bin Laden’s former driver for providing support for terrorism has been overturned by a US appeals court.
The district of Columbia court found yesterday that Salim Hamdan’s alleged conduct from 1996-2001 did not constitute a war crime at the time and quashed his conviction.
“If the government wanted to charge Hamdan with aiding and abetting terrorism or some other war crime that was sufficiently rooted in the international law of war at the time of Hamdan’s conduct, it should have done so,” wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh. All three judges on the case were appointed by Republican presidents
Hamdan was captured at a roadblock in Afghanistan in November 2001, not long after the US invasion following the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.
In the first US war crimes trial since the Second World War, Hamdan was convicted in August 2008 of providing personal services in support of terrorism by driving and guarding bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader who was killed in an American raid on the Pakistan garrison town of Abbottabad last year.
Hamdan was sentenced to 66 months’ jail but given credit for time served at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was returned to Yemen in November 2008 and set free in January 2009 to live with his family in Sanaa.
The appeals court found that even though Hamdan already had been released from US custody, the appeal of his conviction had substance. At the trial, prosecutors said Hamdan was close to al-Qaeda’s inner circle while his lawyers said that Hamdan was simply a driver and mechanic in the motor pool who needed the £125 monthly salary.
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