The Straits Times
Published on Oct 16, 2012

US court throws out conviction of Osama's driver


WASHINGTON (AP) - A United States (US) appeals court has thrown out the terrorism conviction of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who served a prison term for material support for terrorism.

In a 3-0 ruling, the appeals court said that material support for terrorism was not an international-law war crime at the time Mr Hamdan engaged in the activity for which he was convicted.

"If the government wanted to charge Hamdan with aiding and abetting terrorism or some other war crime that was sufficiently rooted in the international law of war at the time of Hamdan's conduct, it should have done so," wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He was joined by two other judges, all appointed by Republican presidents.

Mr Hamdan, who was captured during the US invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001 and sent to Guantanamo two months later, was the first terror suspect found guilty at a US military war-crimes trial after the Sept 11 attacks. He was convicted of providing material support for terrorism for serving as Osama's driver in Afghanistan and cleared of charges he transported SA-7 surface-to-air missiles in Afghanistan to attack US forces.