Salim Hamdan was born in Yemen. He became a driver for Osama bin Laden. He was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and arrived at Guantanamo in May 2002. His military commission was the first for a Guantanamo prisoner that did not end in a plea deal. During his trial before a military commission Hamdan faced charges of conspiracy and material support for terrorism. In August 2008 the commission acquitted Hamdan of the conspiracy charge but found him guilty of material support for terrorism. He was sentenced to time served plus five and a half months.
On Democracy Now, Jess Bravin, the Supreme Court reporter for the Wall Street Journal, said that the sentence demonstrated that, “the military jury, as had been suggested by defenders of the military at the beginning, was quite independent and not simply there to rubber-stamp any kind of conviction.”
Hamdan was released in January 2009.
The DC Court of Appeals overturned Hamdan’s conviction in October 2012. In its opinion, the court said that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 granted military commissions the ability to rule on charges of material support for terrorism. The appeals court ruled that because Hamdan committed the actions that were the basis for his conviction before the law was passed, his military commission did not have the ability to try him for the crime.
The chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo told Reuters that Hamdan’s appeals court ruling dissuaded prosecutors from pursuing cases against other prisoners they had considered charging with providing material support to al-Qaeda.