Osama bin Laden driver sentenced to 5 1/2 years

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The military jury deciding the fate of Osama bin Laden's driver today sentenced him to 5 1/2 years in prison for providing material support for terrorism, far less than the minimum 30 years in prison the prosecution sought.

The military judge hearing the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred, has said previously he will credit Hamdan with at least five years of the 6 1/2 years he has been imprisoned at Guantanamo.
Prosecution lawyers asked for a life term but at least 30 years in prison for Hamdan, while the defense urged that he be sentenced to less than four years.

The sentence was delivered by the six-member jury that on Wednesday found Hamdan guilty on the material support charge but acquitted him of conspiracy.

Justice Department lawyer John Murphy urged the jury of senior military officers to weigh whether that sentence would be appropriate for Hamdan.

"Take one second to think of the victims of Mr. Hamdan's support of terrorism," Murphy said in a closing argument that cast Hamdan as a committed extremist and included graphic images of Al Qaeda terror attacks. "Your sentence will be their justice. Your work is our justice and you shouldn't flinch from it."

Defense lawyer Charlie Swift, the retired Navy officer who was first assigned to represent Hamdan five years ago and took his challenge of the tribunal to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, appealed to the jurors to keep in mind that American justice is based on law, not vengeance.

"One of the things that makes us unique is we don't sentence based on passion, we sentence based on law," Swift told the jurors, noting that they had acquitted Hamdan of a charge of conspiracy, the more serious of two alleged offenses and the only charge brought against him in the Pentagon's original war-crimes indictment in 2004.

That case was scuttled when the Supreme Court quashed the tribunal as unconstitutional in a June 2006 ruling...

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