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Laden's ex-driver to be sent to Yemen

world Updated: Nov 25, 2008 11:47 IST

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The US military is transferring Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, from the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay to his home country of Yemen, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday's editions, citing two government officials.

Hamdan, who won a landmark US Supreme Court ruling in 2006 that struck down US President George W. Bush's first military tribunal system, was expected to arrive within 48 hours in Yemen's capital, Sanaa. He is to serve out the remaining month of his military commission sentence in a Yemeni prison, the newspaper said.

A military commission in August convicted Hamdan of supporting terrorism but acquitted him on more serious charges of conspiring with al Qaeda to wage murderous attacks, in the first US war crimes trial since World War Two.

Military prosecutors and Hamdan's attorneys on Monday said they could not confirm his impending release, the Post said.

A Pentagon spokesman declined comment. "It is our policy not to talk about detainee transfers until they are complete," spokesman Mark Ballesteros told Reuters on Monday.

The trial of Hamdan at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba was the first full test of the controversial military tribunal system authorized by the Bush administration to try foreign captives on terrorism charges outside the regular US court system.

Hamdan was convicted of providing personal services in support of terrorism, specifically driving, guarding and ferrying weapons for a man he knew to be the leader of al Qaeda, an international terrorist organization.

Hamdan was captured in November 2001 at a roadblock in Afghanistan, not long after the US invasion that followed the September 11 attacks.

Held as a suspected terrorist at Guantanamo, he won a Supreme Court case in June 2006 that struck down the Bush administration's first trial system there and prompted Congress to rewrite the rules.

Hamdan's attorneys said the ruling made clear the detainees are entitled to fundamental constitutional rights.

The Guantanamo tribunals were set up to try non-American captives whom the Bush administration considers "enemy combatants" and not entitled to the legal protections granted to soldiers and civilians.

Human rights groups have criticized the Guantanamo prison and trial system as inherently unfair.

Charles Swift, one of Hamdan's attorneys, told The Washington Post that if US officials do send Hamdan home before his sentence expires, "they're absolutely doing the right thing."