Bin Laden driver takes stand in sentencing hearing

Other News Materials 7 August 2008 21:13 (UTC +04:00)

The former driver for Osama bin Laden, Salim Hamdan, sat in the witness stand during his sentencing hearing and told a military jury that he only took the job from the terrorist figurehead because he needed the money, CNN reported.

Hamdan, 37, testified in court one day after he was convicted of providing material support for terrorism in the first trial of a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was found not guilty of the more serious charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism, but still faces a possible life imprisonment.

The six-officer military jury concluded that Hamdan was guilty after a trial that lasted just more than two weeks.

Hamdan's case was the first to go to trial in the military commissions ordered by President George W Bush, and also the beginning of the first US military tribunals since World War II.

Hamdan is the second conviction under the commissions. Australian David Hicks pleaded guilty in 2007 and was sent back to has native country to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He is now free.

Hamdan was captured in 2001 in Afghanistan and has been held at Guantanamo since May 2002. He is among the 20 of Guantanamo's 265 detainees facing war crimes charges. The Pentagon plans to charge an additional 80 suspects.

The US government alleges that Hamdan, a Yemeni, was a member of al-Qaeda terrorist network leader Osama bin Laden's inner circle and was aware of terrorist plots. The defence argued that Hamdan merely served as a driver and was not involved in terrorism.