Updated to include verdict information at the bottom of this post.
Osama bin Laden’s driver, Salim Ahmed Hamden went on trial today at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War 2. This, nearly seven years after the attacks of September 11th, which prompted President George W. Bush to declare war on Terrorism.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who has admitted being the chauffeur and bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden, pleaded not guilty to the charges of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. He could face life in prison if convicted by a jury of U.S. military officers.

The judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, said the prosecution cannot use a series of interrogations at the Bagram air base in Panshir, Afghanistan, because of the “highly coercive environments and conditions under which they were made.”

At Bagram, the judge found Hamdan was kept in isolation 24 hours a day with his hands and feet restrained, and armed soldiers prompted him to talk by kneeing him in the back. His captors at Panshir repeatedly tied him up, put a bag over his head and knocked him the ground.

He’s actually lucky. I would have waterboarded the SOB or just shot him and called it good. But back to the story…

However, the judge did leave the door open for the prosecution to use other statements Hamdan gave elsewhere in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo. Defense lawyers asked Allred to throw out all of his interrogations, arguing he incriminated himself under the effects of alleged abuse — including sleep deprivation and solitary confinement.

For months Hamden’s lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift fought to delay the trial, arguing that military rules don’t allow for a fair defense.

“These cases are too important to do incorrectly at the beginning,” said Swift. “The importance is to get it right the first time.”

Lawyers argue that enemy combatants like Hamdan, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others may not have complete access to witnesses or classified information that may help their defense. And questionable evidence, produced by harsh interrogations, may be used against them.

The old torture argument.

But some sanity still prevails as the legal advisor to the Military Commissions rejects the concerns:

“I would say that the rights we’re providing to these accused in these cases are unprecedented in the history of warfare,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartman.

This trial is expected to last 3-4 weeks.

Hamdan was captured at a roadblock in Afghanistan in November 2001, allegedly with two surface-to-air missiles in the car. But his lawyers say he was merely a low-level driver and mechanic without any role in the al Qaeda conspiracy against the United States.

Hamdan was taken to Guantanamo in May 2002 and selected as one of the first inmates to face prosecution. His case has created repeated legal obstacles for the Pentagon including a Supreme Court ruling that struck down an earlier version of the tribunal system.

There are currently twenty Guantanamo detainees are facing charges in war crimes trials, including five alleged plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks who were transferred here from secret CIA prisons in 2006. Prosecutors intend to charge as many as 80 inmates at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

UPDATED: Today 8/6/08, the first of the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay’s detention center ended in a split decision today for Osama bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan. Hamdan won acquittal on two counts of conspiracy, but his multiple convictions on material support will put him in prison for life.

The same panel that convicted Hamdan will also sentence him. They took just over 6 hours to reach their complex decision, and one has to assume that sentencing will take an even shorter period of time. The man prosecutors described as an “al-Qaeda warrior�? will almost certainly never see freedom again, having been with bin Laden through the attacks on the African embassies, USS Cole, and 9/11.





First Gitmo Trial Begins Video