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Former Bin Laden Driver Hamdan to Leave Guantanamo Bay for Yemen

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, in an undated photo. Hamdan was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 and sent to Guantanamo Bay after it opened in January 2002. His case stalled for a time, in part because of his legal challenges to the military commissions system.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, in an undated photo. Hamdan was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 and sent to Guantanamo Bay after it opened in January 2002. His case stalled for a time, in part because of his legal challenges to the military commissions system. (Courtesy Of Neal Katyal Via Associated Press)
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Hamdan was the second detainee to face a military commission at Guantanamo Bay and became the second man convicted of terrorism charges at the military base. Australian David Hicks was the first, accepting guilt on terrorism charges as part of a high-level plea deal that secured his release from the prison and the ability to serve out his sentence in his homeland. Hicks has been living at home under supervised release, which is scheduled to end soon.

Col. Lawrence Morris, the Pentagon's lead prosecutor for military commissions, said that senior officials consider many factors when transferring a detainee overseas and that he is confident they have those in mind in every case.

"The critical factor is that they are held accountable for their conduct and that they are disabled for the appropriate time period from their involvement in terrorism," Morris said last night. "When our leaders evaluate whether to return them somewhere, that is foremost in their mind, and they would not return them unless they were satisfied on both those fronts."

Hamdan's release will be a preliminary test of Yemen's ability to follow through on detainee transfers and continued custody, as the United States has questioned the Yemeni government's ability to enforce such agreements. Yemen is working to set up a rehabilitation program for released terrorism suspects, similar to one in Saudi Arabia.

Yemeni officials declined to comment on Hamdan because he has not yet been transferred.

"We haven't been comfortable with Yemen's track record on Guantanamo detainees," said one U.S. defense official, referring to the 10 or so that have returned to the country. "This will be good to show us if they have the political will to work with us on the remaining population. It's a good opportunity for them."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.


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