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At Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a jury of six military officers now has begun the case of Salim Hamdan. Hamdan was one of Osama bin Laden's drivers and he's charged with conspiracy and material aid to terrorism.
NPR's John McChesney reports on today's closing arguments.
JOHN MCCHESNEY: Over the two-week trial, some of the testimony has been delivered behind closed doors because of what the government said were national security concerns. But Salim Hamdan's military defense lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Brian Mizer, gave the court a glimpse of some of that testimony.
In closing comments today, Mizer referred to information obtained during interrogation shortly after Hamdan's capture. Said Mizer to the jury, you know what Mr. Hamdan offered to do and how we squandered that opportunity. The judge reminded him he was straying into classified territory.
The defense argued that Hamdan was just a salaried driver and was never part of a meeting of minds on any attack - something necessary for a conspiracy charge to stick.
Defense counsel Joseph McMillan said that under the prosecution's reasoning, every butcher, baker and candlestick maker - his words - who work for al-Qaida would be guilty. That, he said, is why Hitler's driver was not prosecuted as a war criminal. The prosecution argued that Hamdan's cooperation was no defense for conspiring to kill civilians, says the government charges. The Justice Department's John Murphy cited the attacks on the American embassies in East Africa, the USS Cole and the World Trade Center, and said that in each case, Hamdan knew that terrorist attacks had occurred or would occur. He didn't take part in the planning, Murphy said, and he didn't know all the details. But he knew enough to be considered part of the conspiracy. Murphy said that without people like Hamdan, bin Laden couldn't have succeeded.
Hamdan faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted. Even if acquitted, he faces the prospect of continued detention because he remains classified as an unlawful combatant.
John McChesney, NPR News, Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.
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