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Bin Laden’s Driver Receives 5 1/2 Year Prison Sentence

A military tribunal jury sentenced Salim Hamdan, the former driver of Osama bin Laden, to five and a half years in prison Thursday. A Miami Herald reporter details the courtroom proceedings and what lies ahead for the Yemeni detainee.

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    Carol Rosenberg, thanks for being with us. Take us back into the courtroom. How did this unfold?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG, The Miami Herald:

    Well, this was remarkable. You know, the jury had asked one question before they went off to deliberate on the sentence. And the question was if he was going to get any credit for time served. And they told them that basically he was getting 61 months' credit.

    So when they came back with a verdict of 66 months, that means that the Osama bin Laden's driver's term of sentence will be over by the end of the year.


    Now, how did Hamdan react?


    He was very emotional. First of all, he stood up and asked to make a speech, which is not part of the military script for these sorts of things, but the judge gave him the opportunity to talk. And he thanked everybody. And he apologized. And he apologized again.

    Salem Hamdan's explanation was that he really didn't understand how bad his boss had been and that he never really walked away from working for him — this was his explanation — because he needed the money. And so, by the time sentencing came, he apologized for any pain that his work had caused people.

    You know, yesterday he was acquitted of the conspiracy, the larger crime of having been responsible for September 11th and the other al-Qaida spectacles. But he was convicted of providing material support for terror, meaning, as the driver and bodyguard of bin Laden, he was responsible. They actually convicted him of being a war criminal, a terrorist.