Osama Bin Laden's Ex-Driver To Return To Yemen

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The Bush administration is expected to send Osama bin Laden's driver home to Yemen. In August, Salim Hamdan was convicted of helping al-Qaida. He will complete his sentence next month with credit for time served. Hamdan is held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and there was speculation that the U.S. would try to keep him there indefinitely.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Another case we're tracking involves Osama bin Laden's driver Salim Hamdan. He was the first Guantanamo detainee to face war crimes charges. Now, with his sentence nearly complete, sources tell NPR he will be returned to his home country of Yemen. Here's our legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG: Hamdan has become something of a symbol of the troubled Bush administration policies at Guantanamo. He was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, sent to Guantanamo, and has been there for nearly seven years. Perhaps because he was a driver for Osama bin Laden, the Bush administration picked him as the first detainee to be tried on war crimes charges under a presidentially created military tribunal system. But the Supreme Court, ruling in Hamdan's case, struck down the process as unconstitutional. Later, when he was tried under a new congressionally approved structure, a military jury of six officers acquitted Hamdan of the most serious charges against him and convicted him of essentially being a hapless, know-nothing, low-level al-Qaeda worker in Afghanistan.

What's more, the military jury, in a clear repudiation of the Bush administration's judgment in the case, refused to impose the 30-year to life prison term sought by prosecutors. Instead, the jury sentenced Hamdan to time served plus about five months. The five months is set to be up December 31, and the Bush administration has contended that it could continue to hold Hamdan under its detainee regimen as an enemy combatant after that. In an apparent about face, however, the administration has decided not to do that and, according to knowledgeable sources, instead is releasing Hamdan to his home country of Yemen with the understanding that he will serve out the remaining weeks of his sentence in a Yemeni prison before returning to his wife and children. Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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