U.S. Charges Yemeni Described as Bin Laden Bodyguard
Wednesday, July 14, 2004; 6:50 PM
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has charged a
Yemeni described as a bodyguard and driver for Osama bin Laden
with conspiracy, making him the fourth Guantanamo prisoner to
face trial before a military tribunal, the Pentagon said on
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, one of 594 prisoners held at the U.S.
naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was charged with a single
count of conspiracy to commit murder, attacks on civilians and
The charge sheet does not refer to any killing or other
specific act of violence committed by Hamdan.
The U.S. government will not seek the death penalty against
him, said Maj. Michael Shavers, a Pentagon spokesman.
Hamdan's case was referred to a tribunal -- formally called
a military commission -- of five U.S. officers, but no trial
date was set, the Pentagon said.
The U.S. military commissions, the first of their kind
since World War II, have faced criticism from human rights
groups who argue the rules are rigged to hamstring defense
lawyers and produce convictions.
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, the military lawyer assigned by
the Pentagon to defend Hamdan, filed a lawsuit in April in
federal court in Seattle arguing the tribunals represent an
unconstitutional expansion of executive branch powers.
The Pentagon described Hamdan, held for more than two years
at Guantanamo, as a member of al Qaeda, which carried out the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, and said he first
met with bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1996.
The charge sheet said Hamdan became a bodyguard and
personal driver for the Saudi-born al Qaeda chief, serving in
those roles until his capture in Afghanistan in November 2001
in military operations launched by the United States following
the Sept. 11 attacks.
It said Hamdan received weapons training at an al Qaeda
training camp and drove or accompanied bin Laden to camps, news
conferences and lectures.
The charge sheet also accused Hamdan of delivering weapons,
ammunition and other supplies to al Qaeda members, and picking
up weapons from Taliban warehouses for use by the head of al
Qaeda's security committee.
The government says Hamdan is an "unprivileged belligerent"
who, unlike a uniformed soldier in a nation's army, does not
have the right to kill another person on the battlefield.
THREE OTHERS CHARGED
The same tribunal that will hear his case will handle the
trials of the other three charged Guantanamo prisoners.
Australian David Hicks was charged in June with three
counts: conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder and
aiding the enemy. Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul of Yemen
and Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan were charged in
February with a single count each of conspiracy to commit war
No trial dates have been set in those cases.
Since January 2002, the United States has held prisoners
captured in what President Bush calls the global war on
terrorism at the remote Guantanamo base. Most were seized in
Bush has designated 15 prisoners as eligible for trials
before military tribunals. The charge against Hamdan was
brought 12 months after Bush first designated him as eligible
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