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 sentence.
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.