GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) – Osama bin Laden’s driver performed vital services that enabled “the world’s most dangerous terrorist” to launch attacks, a prosecutor told jurors before they began deliberations on Monday in the first U.S. war crimes trial at Guantanamo.
But defense lawyers for Yemeni captive Salim Hamdan argued he was merely a hired laborer akin to the defense contractors who provide services to U.S. forces. “Changing lug nuts and oil filters” were hardly war crimes, they said..
Hamdan was not even trusted to know where he was driving bin Laden until after a convoy departed, Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, his U.S. military defense lawyer, told the jury of six U.S. military officers.
Hamdan, who is about 38, was captured in November 2001 in Afghanistan, where he had worked in bin Laden’s motor pool since 1996. He could face life in prison if convicted of conspiring with al Qaeda and supporting terrorism in the first U.S. war crimes tribunal since World War Two.
Even if he is acquitted, or sentenced to less than the six years he has already spent in captivity, the United States says it still can hold him as an “unlawful enemy combatant” until the end of the war on terrorism declared by President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks.
Hamdan says he drove for bin Laden because he needed the $200 monthly wage but denies joining al Qaeda, pledging loyalty to bin Laden or participating in attacks.
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