Bin Laden's driver convicted by Guantanamo military tribunal
Hamdan was 1st Guantanamo Bay prisoner to face trial
Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, was found guilty on a terrorism charge Wednesday in the first verdict to come through the controversial U.S. military tribunal process at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Hamdan, a Yemeni citizen who was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001, was convicted of providing material support for terrorism but acquitted of conspiring with al-Qaeda. Hamdan was taken to Guantanamo in May 2002.
The Pentagon-selected jury deliberated for about eight hours over three days. After the verdict was read, Hamdan held his head in his hands and wept.
The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for later Wednesday. Hamdan could get life in prison.
Hamdan was the first Guantanamo Bay prisoner to go on trial. Of the base's roughly 265 other prisoners, including Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, the Pentagon says it intends to prosecute about 80.
The White House released a statement saying it was pleased with the verdict.
"The military commission system is a fair and appropriate legal process for prosecuting detainees alleged to have committed crimes against the United States or our interests," deputy spokesman Tony Fratto said.
"We look forward to other cases moving forward to trial," he said.
Identified al-Qaeda safehouses, U.S. authorities say
U.S. authorities have said that Hamdan identified key Islamist leaders, mapped out bin Laden's escape routes and led them to al-Qaeda safehouses after he was captured at a roadblock in southern Afghanistan in November 2001.
Hamdan's defence lawyers argued that he was a low-level employee who did not materially contribute to militant acts.
The system of military tribunals, introduced under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, has come under fire for years from critics who say it is unconstitutional.
In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the military tribunals illegal and in violation of American and international law.
As a result of that ruling, the Bush administration made changes to the military tribunals, which now have congressional approval.
In June, the top court ruled that foreign suspects held at the high security military jail at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the American Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.
"This is the first full test of the special tribunal system that was implemented by George Bush shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks," said the CBC's Nahlah Ayed in Washington.
"It is a system that been criticized because, for example, it allows the kinds of evidence that would never be allowed in regular courts — or even military courts — such as hearsay or statements made under interrogation," Ayed said.
"This will be very important not only for the system but also for President Bush."
Besides Hamdan, only one other prisoner has been found guilty at Guantanamo. As part of a pretrial agreement, Australian David Hicks pleaded guilty in 2007 to providing support for terrorism and was sent back to his home country to serve the remaining nine months of a seven-year sentence.
With files from the Associated Press