Appeals Court Tosses Out Conviction of Osama Bin Laden’s Driver

A federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of Osama bin Laden’s former driver on terrorism charges, throwing out a previous ruling by a military court in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, was detained in Afghanistan in 2001 and sent to Guantanamo. In what was the first U.S. military war crimes tribunal since World War II, a jury of six military officers found Hamdan guilty in 2008 of providing material support to terrorism and sentenced him to five and a half years in prison.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia tossed that conviction Tuesday, saying in a 3-0 decision that material support for terrorism was not an international war crime at the time Hamdan was accused of violating the law.

“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.

Hamdan, who was given credit for time served, was released in 2008 and now lives in Yemen. He had been picked up in Afghanistan by U.S. troops after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

At trial, there was no evidence that Hamdan knew in advance of the 9/11 attacks, but that he had heard bin Laden discuss them afterward.

Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald contributed to this report.