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Jury Delivers Split Verdict in First Gitmo Trial

BY   August 6, 2008 at 1:45 PM EDT

Salim Hamdan; AP file photo

The verdict comes after a 10-day trial that has provided the
first test of a widely debated tribunal system for prosecuting terrorism
suspects. Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni, was the first prisoner to face a U.S. war
crimes trial since World War II.

The Pentagon-selected jury of six military officers
deliberated for about eight hours over three days in the case, the Associated
Press reported. Hamdan reportedly held his head in his hands and wept in the
Guantanamo courtroom after the Navy captain presiding over the jury read the

Hamdan was captured in Afghanistan in 2001. He was taken to
the U.S. detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay in May 2002 and named as one of the
first prisoners to face prosecution. His case has been the subject of repeated
court battles, including a Supreme Court ruling that struck down an earlier
version of the tribunal system.

While the jury found Hamdan guilty of providing material
support for terrorism, it cleared him of weighty conspiracy charges that would
have tied him to the planning of major terrorist actions, such as the Sept. 11.
attacks, by helping transport and protect bin Laden.

The charges Hamdan was acquitted of, which included two
counts of conspiring with al-Qaida to attack civilians, destroy property and
commit murder in violation of the laws of war — were the only charges against
him an earlier attempt to prosecute him.

“The travesty of this verdict now is that had the case
gone to trial in 2004 he would have been acquitted of all the charges,”
Deputy Chief Defense Counsel Michael Berrigan said, according to Reuters.

Hamdan was convicted of five counts of providing material
support for terrorism, specifically offering personal services to al-Qaida,
such as driving for bin Laden.

The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for Hamdan, who faces
up to a life sentence, for later Wednesday.

In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the
administration was pleased that Hamdan received a fair trial.

“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. We look forward to other cases
moving forward to trial,” he said, according to media reports.