Defense Rests Case In First Gitmo Trial The defense team at the first Guantanamo war crimes trial rested its case Friday. Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former, faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.
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Defense Rests Case In First Gitmo Trial

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Defense Rests Case In First Gitmo Trial


Defense Rests Case In First Gitmo Trial

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This is Day To Day. I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, the Day To Day summer series on what to do with your stimulus check from the government. NPR's Neda Ulaby heads for the mountains. First ,Guantanamo. The defense rested today in the case of the United States' first war-crimes trial since World War II. On trial is Salim Hamdan. He was one of Osama bin Laden's drivers. The defense claims he was just a lowly, salaried employee doing his job.

The government has charged him with being a conspirator who provided material support for terrorism. NPR's John McChesney has been covering the trial at Guantanamo Naval Base. He joins us now. John, the defense rested after submitting written testimony from two senior terror suspects as their final evidence. You've been able to briefly look at this written testimony. What can you tell us?

JOHN MCCHESNEY: We had testimony submitted to us this morning in writing by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who engineered - according to the government and himself - the attacks of 9/11. And he was questioned about the role of Salim Hamdan, and I'll just read you one paragraph from what he answered.

The question was, did Salim Hamdan ever have any role in planning, or carry out, any activities that you either directed or were involved in?, as he was the director of operations. He didn't play any role. He was not a soldier. He was a driver. His nature was primitive. He was a Bedouin one person and far from civilized. He was not fit to plan or execute. But he is fit to change truck tires, to change oil filters, wash and clean cars, and passing cargo and pickup trucks. He could tighten bolts and could select the best maintenance shop.

CHADWICK: This is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, saying this about Hamdan?

MCCHESNEY: That's right. We also had testimony from Waleed bin Attash, and as I understand it, he was responsible, or has boasted his responsibility, for the attack on the USS Cole. And he says Salim Hamdan's activities were distinctively clear, as he was seen driving the cars going and coming every day. His responsibilities were those related to driving, such as mechanical and maintenance and repairs. He was not involved in planning any attacks against the United States.

CHADWICK: OK. A couple of things, one, I've heard your coverage earlier this week on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. You've been reporting details that there were rockets in the car with Hamdan when he was arrested, and there's other testimony against him, some documentary evidence that would kind of tie him to these weapons. So, that's the case against him. The prosecution wrapped up this case, I think, only yesterday, and now the defense is resting after just one day. Why is that?

MCCHESNEY: Well, they had a couple of witness - the defense had a couple of witnesses who came out of order because of availability. So, we had a couple of witnesses ahead of time. Then yesterday, we had two witnesses in secret. We couldn't hear any of their testimony. We actually could see them on the screen, and we were desperate for a lip reader.

CHADWICK: Were they American agents? Or were they, you know, captured, suspect terrorists?

MCCHESNEY: One was a colonel who had been an administrator in the SERE program. That's a training program for American soldiers to resist torture. SERE was twisted around and reverse-engineered in Guantanamo to be used against detainees. Whether - he was a defense witness. We do not know what he said. He said something about how SERE was used in treating the detainees. The other was a Special Ops JAG officer, a legal officer for special operations, and we have no idea what he said. So, the reason defense rests quickly here is - those are the reasons.

CHADWICK: John, you've covered a lot of different trials. You've covered a lot of military trials. You are a military veteran yourself. What is the sense of being in this courtroom and watching this judicial proceeding go on?

MCCHESNEY: Well, I think the principal thing is to mention the new courtroom, which I visited for the first time yesterday. The audience sits in a glassed-in room 80 feet from where the judge and the screen is for displayed evidence. And the glassed-in room is completely isolated and there's an audio delay. I've never seen anything quite like this except for the Navy Seals' trials around the death of a detainee in Iraq. But there's a lot of secrecy involved in this, and it's not quite as public a war-crime trial as you might expect.

CHADWICK: Closing arguments scheduled for Monday. We'll hear more from you next week. NPR's John McChesney in Guantanamo, Cuba. Thanks, John.


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