News has hit that Hamdan was just found guilty of the lesser charge of material support for terrorism by the military tribunal in Gitmo. Hamdan was acquitted on the more serious charge of conspiracy by the same jury, which is a blow to the Bush Administration’s hopes for a full vindication of its methods. That they could not secure a conviction from a hand-picked military jury on a terrorism charge they dearly wanted a guilty on will be picked over for days to come, I’m certain. Via NYTimes:
The military commission conviction of the former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who was part of a select group of drivers and bodyguards for Mr. bin Laden until 2001, was a long-sought, if some what qualified, victory for the Bush administration, which has been working to begin military commission trials at the isolated naval base here for nearly seven years.
The commission acquitted Mr. Hamdan of a conspiracy charge, arguably the more serious of two charges he faced, but convicted him of a separate charge of providing material support for terrorism.
Sentencing will take place in a separate hearing to begin this afternoon. I keep thinking back to Ben Wizner’s post from over the weekend from "Camp Justice:"
The word “Guantánamo” has become so synonymous with indefinite detention and coercive interrogation that many Americans are unaware of the culturally diverse community that supports — some might even say “materially supports” — the military mission here. This weekend, I was immensely grateful for their presence and their generosity.
On Monday, the trial will conclude with closing statements from the prosecution and defense, after which the military officers who comprise the “commission” will withdraw to deliberate. There will be little suspense — not only because Hamdan will likely not be acquitted, but because, in the twisted world of Guantánamo detention, even acquittal would not lead to release. It is not the jury that will determine Hamdan’s fate, but the nation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, Hamdan’s embarrassing trial will accelerate Guantánamo’s inevitable endgame.
After sentencing, there will most certainly be more appeals filed on Hamdan’s behalf. The charge for which conviction was secured can carry a 2 year sentence, which Hamdan has already more than fulfilled at this point — but will likely not result in any freedom while the Bush Administration is still in office in any event. It’s certainly not been another Nuremberg in terms of openness, that’s for sure.
More from the WaPo. I have queries out to several folks, and will get more details to you as I hear back.
UPDATE: This just in from the Center for Constitutional Rights:
"In response to the hand-picked military jury’s decision in the Military Commission against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, issued the following statement:
“Hamdan’s trial violated two of the most fundamental criminal justice principles accepted by all civilized nations: the prohibition on the use of coerced evidence and the prohibition on retroactive criminal laws.
The decision to keep these cases out of the ordinary criminal courts will produce years of appeals over novel legal issues raised by the untested military commissions system. Even after those appeals are finished, the process will never be seen as legitimate by the world. This case was the first trial run of the commissions system, and the decision proves nothing except that the system itself should be scrapped. Terrorism-related crimes should be tried in the time-tested domestic criminal justice system, a system whose rules have been designed over the centuries with two goals: to seek out the truth and secure justice.”
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court. For more information or to read the amicus brief filed by CCR in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, click here."