By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 7, 2008 - The first detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to have his case brought to trial was sentenced today by a military panel there to 66 months in prison for providing material support to terrorism. Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who served as Osama bin Laden's driver, was tried and sentenced under the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Following a two-week trial, a military jury yesterday found Hamdan guilty of providing material support to terrorism, but not of the more serious charge of conspiracy.
Navy Capt. Keith Allred, the military judge, sentenced him to 66 months confinement but offered an eight-day credit. Military prosecutors had urged 30 or more years imprisonment, claiming that a tough sentence would send a message to other al-Qaida supporters.
Hamdan's case now will undergo an automatic review by the convening authority, which will evaluate findings and appropriateness of the sentence, officials said. He will have legal representation through the process and the opportunity to submit matters for consideration on his behalf. The Court of Military Commissions Review will then review the case.
After that process, Hamdan has the right to appeal to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court, officials said.
Despite his shorter sentence, defense officials said Hamdan is likely to remain in prison longer than 66 months. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said during an Aug. 5 news conference he is still considered an enemy combatant and a danger.
Morrell called Hamdan's trial "a fair and transparent process" that allowed journalists to observe and report on the proceedings. Hamdan "was offered a vigorous defense by his counsel, in which the prosecutor was able to make his case," Morrell said.
The United States is "clearly trying to work to reduce the detainee population in Guantanamo" and bring more trials forward, Morrell said. In addition to bringing detainees to justice, the process will "at the same time provide a system that protects the American people from some very, very dangerous characters out there," he said.