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First Guantanamo Bay Detainee Convicted on Terrorism Charges

Posted: August 20, 2008

A Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison by a United States Military Tribunal for providing material support to Al Qaeda.


Salim Ahmed Hamdan, 38, was found guilty on August 7, 2008, for working as Osama Bin Laden’s personal driver and bodyguard in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, at which time he was detained at a roadblock in southern Afghanistan by members of the Afghan Northern Alliance, a group of rebels fighting the Taliban.  He was acquitted on two more serious counts of conspiracy to support a terrorist organization.


When Hamdan was captured, the Northern Alliance reportedly found two shoulder-firing anti-aircraft missiles in his car.  The Northern Alliance handed over Hamdan to American authorities, who eventually moved him Guantanamo Bay in May 2002.  He is the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried by a military commission. 


After his conviction, Hamdan read a statement in which he expressed regret, saying “I don't know what could be given or presented to these innocent people who were killed in the U.S… I personally present my apologies to them if anything what I did have caused them pain.”  Hamdan further explained that his association with bin Laden was merely a “relationship of respect” between him and his employer.


Hamdan, who will get credit for 61 months for time already served in prison, will complete the balance of his sentence in five months.  However, the Pentagon insists that they may continue to hold Hamdan, whom they recognize as an “enemy combatant,” until the war on terror is deemed to be over.  According to a military order, an “enemy combatant” is an individual who supports the Taliban or Al Qaeda forces, or other forces “that are engaged in hostilities against the United States and its coalition partners.”

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2008 Anti-Defamation League