Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald reports from beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay:
In a stunning rebuke, a six-member U.S. military jury Thursday ignored a Pentagon prosecutor’s plea for a 30 years-plus term and ordered Osama bin Laden’s driver to 66 months in prison.
With credit for time served given by the judge, that means Salim Hamdan, 40, of Yemen will be sent back to the general detainee population of Camp Delta by January, and eligible to return home.
In court, Hamdan’s longest-serving defense attorney, retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift, clasped the more diminutive Yemeni in a bearhug and both men openly wept.
Afterwards, Swift vowed that lawyers would work to send Hamdan home to his wife and two daughters by January. Lawyers were prepared to go straight to federal court with a habeas corpus petition, he said, were the U.S. to seek to continue to hold the driver after the sentence were done.
”What happened — despite the system — is justice,” said Swift.
After the jury’s verdict, the judge turned to the convicted terrorist and said:
“I wish you godspeed, Mr. Hamdan. I hope the day comes when you return to your wife and your daughters and your country.”
”God willing,” the man in traditional Yemeni robe and head scarf replied in Arabic, interrupting.
The judge continued: “And I hope that you are able to be a father, and a provider, and a husband in the best sense of the word.”
Then the detainee said it again: “Inshallah.”
Allred replied in Arabic. “Inshallah.”
Touching. I’m sure the LGF set is already calling for the head of ‘Judge Dhimmi.’ But, despite the Spielberg-esque conclusion to the first U.S. military tribunal since WWII, happy endings aren’t necessarily in the script, as noted by the Washington Post:
It is unclear what will happen to Hamdan after he finishes serving his remaining time, because military prosecutors and military commissions officials have argued they have the ability to hold enemy combatants indefinitely, until the end of hostilities in the so-called war on terror.
Warren Richey of the CS Monitor quotes Linda Malone, director of the Human Rights and National Security Law Program at William and Mary Law School:
“The overriding problem is that the Bush administration has said that [Hamdan] will be held until the war on terror is over, regardless of what sentence he gets,” Professor Malone says. “It is almost Kafkaesque that regardless of what the sentence might be and whatever credit he is given [for his prior detention], they are saying they are going to hold him until the war ends – and everyone knows that is virtually limitless.“
I truly hope any future habeas corpus petition proves successful. But to call this outcome “justice”? With all due respect, Lt. Cmdr. Swift, that word doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
Updated: Next on the ‘worst of the worst’ list: Bin Laden’s personal stylist *cough*.