U.S. sends bin Laden's driver home from Guantanamo

Other News Materials 26 November 2008 09:40 (UTC +04:00)

The United States sent Osama bin Laden's former driver home to Yemen from the Guantanamo prison camp to serve the last few weeks of his sentence for providing material support for terrorism, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Salim Hamdan was the first prisoner to be convicted in a full trial of the widely criticized tribunals set up by the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress to try non-Americans on terrorism charges outside the regular civilian and military courts at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The Pentagon confirmed in a statement that Hamdan had been transferred to Yemen but gave no further details.

In the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War Two, Hamdan was convicted in August of providing personal services in support of terrorism, specifically driving and guarding a man he knew to be the leader of al Qaeda.

But he was acquitted of more serious charges of conspiring with al Qaeda to wage deadly attacks.

Hamdan was sentenced to 66 months in prison but given credit for some of the time served at Guantanamo, so that his term was set to end by December 31. The Pentagon said the remaining weeks of his sentence would be served in Yemen.

Hamdan, who is about 40, acknowledged he was part of bin Laden's motor pool in Afghanistan but he said he took the job because he needed the $200 monthly salary and did not know or support his employer's aims.

The six U.S. military jurors who convicted Hamdan of providing material support for terrorism delivered a sentence that was far short of the 30 years prosecutors had sought.

The U.S. government had argued that it had the right to indefinitely detain Hamdan at Guantanamo as an "unlawful enemy combatant" even after his sentence expired but abandoned that stance by returning him to Yemen to finish his sentence.

About 100 of the 250 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo are from Yemen, which is bin Laden's ancestral home.