Appeals Court Overturns Terrorism Conviction of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Bin Laden’s Driver
A federal appeals court on Friday overturned the terrorism conviction of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden whose case has been one of the most tangled to emerge from the war crimes trials of detainees held by the military at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The court found that Mr. Hamdan’s conviction by a military commission for providing material support for terrorism could not stand because, under the international law of war in effect at the time of his actions, there was no such defined war crime.
The Military Commission Act, a law passed in 2006, does not authorize such retroactive prosecutions, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled.
The case of Mr. Hamdan, once considered a dangerous terrorist by the Bush administration, forced Congress to pass that 2006 statute in the first place.
Lawyers for Mr. Hamdan, a Yemeni who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, had challenged his detention and won a landmark Supreme Court case in 2006 that found the military commission system for prosecuting war crimes unconstitutional and in violation of American military law and the Geneva Conventions. That forced Congress to rewrite the rules, leading to Mr. Hamdan’s trial and conviction in 2008. Because he had already served so long in prison, he was released later that year to Yemen, his home country.