Defense Rests Case In Bin Laden Driver's Trial

The defense has rested its case in the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War II. This came after written testimony from two senior terrorism suspects was submitted in the defense of Salim Hamdan, one of Osama bin Laden's drivers.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The defense rested its case today in the first war crimes trial at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Salim Hamdan was one of Osama bin Laden's drivers. He's charged with conspiracy and material aid to terrorism. The defense's case has featured testimony from high-value detainees at the prison, as NPR's John McChesney reports.

JOHN McCHESNEY: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - known here as KSM, the self-confessed mastermind of 9/11 - said in a translated transcript that Salim Hamdan did not play any role in planning terrorist attacks. He was not a soldier; he was a driver, Mohammad said. His nature was more primitive: a Bedouin person far from civilization. He was not fit to plan or execute. He is fit to change truck tires, said Mohammed in written testimony.

Waleed bin Attash, an aide to the man who planned the attack on the USS Cole, also said that Hamdan was not involved in planning for any attacks against the United States. The government maintains that Hamdan was part of bin Laden's inner circle, took a personal oath of allegiance to the al-Qaida leader, and even though a lowly driver was important to carrying out al-Qaida's missions.

The defense has maintained throughout that this proceeding has no legitimacy and will be appealed well into the future. Here is defense attorney Mike Berrigan.

Mr. MIKE BERRIGAN (Deputy Chief Defense Council, Salim Hamdan Trial): We think what being put on is a show. It is not a trial. It's a trial - we mean a real, fair, judicial proceeding. And the rules have been constructed almost to guarantee a conviction. The defendant really has no chance to put up a real fight because the evidence is kept from him and his attorneys, and the rules are slanted against him.

McCHESNEY: The defense has complained about lack of access to classified documents and witnesses who were here at Guantanamo at the time Hamdan was interrogated. The chief prosecutor has characterized this as one of the fairest war crime trials ever undertaken. Closing arguments will be on Monday. If the jury delivers a guilty verdict, a sentencing hearing will follow. If acquitted, Hamdan still might be held indefinitely as an unlawful combatant.

John McChesney, Guantanamo Bay.

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