Guantanamo Jury Gives Hamdan Light Sentence
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
A surprisingly light sentence EDS handed down today at the war crimes trial of Salim Hamdan at Guantanamo Bay, and it didn't take the military jury long to reach its decision. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of at least 30 years. But Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, was sentenced to five and a half years. Taking into account the more than five years he's already served, Hamdan has just about five months to go. But the Bush administration has said it could continue to hold him indefinitely as an enemy combatant.
Yesterday, the same jury convicted Hamdan of giving material aid to terrorism, but Hamdan was acquitted of a more serious charge - conspiring with al-Qaida. NPR's John McChesney reports on today's sentencing from Guantanamo.
JOHN McCHESNEY: Before the verdict was announced, prosecutor John Murphy told the jury that Hamdan was faking tears when he saw the video of planes crashing into the World Trade Center. Hamdan himself told the jury in an un-sworn statement that it was a sorry or sad thing to see innocent people killed. I don't know what could be given or presented to these innocent people who were killed in the U.S. I personally present my apologies to them if anything what I did caused them pain.
Prosecutor Murphy said that his remorse was too little too late, that when you discover your boss is killing people, you leave. He told the jurors to remember the victims of al Qaida's attacks in the last second before they voted on a sentence. The judge instructed the jury to ignore the prosecution's showing of photos of attacks on embassies in Africa, the U.S.S. Cole and the World Trade Center, saying Hamdan had been acquitted of conspiring to commit any of those attacks.
Both Hamdan and his defense lawyers raise the issue of the nine-month sentence for Australian David Hicks who was charged with the same events. Hicks served his nine months in Australia and has been released. Chief defense lawyer Charles Swift who has worked on the Hamdan case for five years taking it all away to the Supreme Court said that Hamdan's cooperation with investigators should be weighed in sentencing. Prosecutor Murphy referred to the videotapes of Hamdan immediately after his capture and said that he was uncooperative at that crucial time. Swift said Hamdan was afraid he was going to be killed. But as soon as he was reassured that that wouldn't happen, Hamdan switched sides. After the sentencing, Hamdan and his lawyer exchanged an embrace.
John McChesney, NPR News, Guantanamo Bay.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.