Court Reverses Conviction Of Bin Laden’s Driver

Today’s decision by a federal appeals court to overturn the conviction of a former driver for Osama bin Laden is unlikely to affect the high-profile cases against the accused architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks or other suspected terrorists who face multiple charges, NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston said earlier on All Things Considered.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan was bin Laden’s driver from 1996 to 2001. He was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 and convicted in 2008 by a U.S. military commission of providing “material support for terrorism,” as The Associated Press writes. Hamdan was “sentenced to 5 1/2 years, given credit for time served and is back home in Yemen, reportedly working as a taxi driver,” the AP adds.

But the court said today that because providing material support wasn’t a recognized crime under the military commissions act until 2006 and was not a crime under international law at the time he was bin Laden’s driver, Hamdan should not have been found guilty.

The Hamdan case, NPR’s Nina Totenberg adds in a report for our Newscast Desk, “became a symbol of the Bush administration’s troubled legal policies” regarding the suspected terrorists being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Today’s 3-0 ruling, she notes, came from “conservative, Republican appointees.”

It isn’t known, Dina said on All Things Considered, just how many of the 16 to 60 detainees at Guantanamo who are awaiting trial might only have been charged with providing material support for terrorism. After today’s court ruling, she said, “prosecutors will have to charge them with something else or just hold them indefinitely.”

The accused architect of the 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, though, and others suspected of being top al-Qaida figures, “are being charged with more than just providing material support,” Dina noted.

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