Appeals Court Tosses Out Conviction of Osama Bin Laden's Driver

Tuesday, 16 October 2012 13:24 By Lindsay Wise, McClatchy Newspapers | Report
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An undated photo of Salim Ahmed Hamdan. (Courtesy of Prof. Neal Katyal via The New York Times)An undated photo of Salim Ahmed Hamdan. (Courtesy of Prof. Neal Katyal via The New York Times)A federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of Osama bin Laden’s former driver on terrorism charges, throwing out a previous ruling by a military court in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, was detained in Afghanistan in 2001 and sent to Guantanamo. In what was the first U.S. military war crimes tribunal since World War II, a jury of six military officers found Hamdan guilty in 2008 of providing material support to terrorism and sentenced him to five and a half years in prison.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia tossed that conviction Tuesday, saying in a 3-0 decision that material support for terrorism was not an international war crime at the time Hamdan was accused of violating the law.

"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.

Hamdan, who was given credit for time served, was released in 2008 and now lives in Yemen. He had been picked up in Afghanistan by U.S. troops after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

At trial, there was no evidence that Hamdan knew in advance of the 9/11 attacks, but that he had heard bin Laden discuss them afterward.

Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald contributed to this report.

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Lindsay Wise

Lindsay Wise covers consumer affairs for McClatchy Newspapers, based in Washington, D.C.

Lindsay previously reported for the Houston Chronicle, where she specialized in coverage of the city's Arab and Muslim communities as well as veterans/military issues. An Arabic speaker, she has a B.A. in English and Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and an M.Phil. in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from St. Antony's College, University of Oxford.

Before joining the Houston Chronicle staff in 2006, Lindsay spent three years working as a freelance journalist in Egypt, where she reported for TIME magazine, Scripps Howard News Service, The Sunday Times (London), The San Francisco Chronicle, Voice of America, and PRI’s The World.

Follow Lindsay on Twitter: @lindsaywise

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