July 22, 2008

Injustice Feared at Trial of Yemeni Former Driver of Bin-Ladin – Al- Jazeera TV

Text of report by Qatari government-funded, pan-Arab news channel Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 22 July

[Aziz Al-Marnisi video report]

Salim Hamdan, a former Yemeni driver of Al-Qa'idah Organization Leader Usamah Bin-Ladin, who has been detained at the Guantanamo Bay for six years, has denied charges of conspiracy and supporting terrorism levelled against him by the Pentagon. Hamdan's denial came at the time when the US Administration has begun the first military trial of those charged of war crimes since World War II.

[Begin recording] [Video report by Aziz al-Marnisi] Salim Hamdan is the first detainee to face a military tribunal set up by the administration of US President George Bush to try Guantanamo Bay prisoners in particular. The bill of indictment prepared by the Pentagon against Hamdan and dozens of other detainees includes conspiracy and providing material support for so-called terrorism prior to the 9/11 events.

However, Hamdan pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against him. Hamdan was arrested in Afghanistan six years ago. He was charged for the first time three years ago. His trial was greatly set back by the law. Hamdan's defence requested stopping the trial and giving him the right to challenge the constitutionality of the legal procedures of the military tribunal. However, federal judge James Robertson rejected the request last Thursday, launching the first episode of those trials, which might include 80 Guantanamo inmates. Those inmates have been detained for years without trial. Many of them stated that they had been tortured during interrogation.

The Guantanamo trial is the first war crimes trial set up by the United States since World War II to try foreign detainees who are described the Bush administration as enemy combatants. This deprives them of the legal immunity granted to soldiers and civilians in wartime.

Many human rights organizations have considered this a violation of the Geneva Conventions. This forced the White House to amend the legal procedures and obtain a Congressional approval of these trials. Hamdan's trial is expected to last for two weeks, and, if convicted, he would face a life sentence. Some fear that the trial would not observe the principles of justice and law, while others view it as a political trial par excellence. [End recording] [Video shows archive footage of Guantanamo inmates]

Originally published by Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 0812 22 Jul 08.

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