A military judge declared Osama bin Laden's former driver an "unlawful enemy combatant" in a ruling released yesterday, clearing the way for him to be tried on war-crimes charges in May before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay.
Hours later, the military filed charges against another Guantanamo detainee, an alleged al-Qaeda conspirator and the reported brother-in-law of one of the hijackers who slammed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
The moves underscored the Pentagon's determination to speed up trials for terrorism suspects being held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
The judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, said there was credible evidence that Salim Hamdan, 37, of Yemen, was bin Laden's personal driver from 1997 to 2001 in Afghanistan and was captured driving toward the battle of Kandahar in November 2001 with surface-to-air missiles in his car.
Allred rejected defense arguments that Hamdan was a prisoner of war and thus beyond the jurisdiction of the Guantanamo tribunals.
Hamdan, a father of two with a fourth-grade education, is charged with conspiracy and supporting terrorism for allegedly serving as the al-Qaeda leader's bodyguard and a sometimes courier for weapons. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his earlier military commissions as unconstitutional.
The Pentagon said Hamdan's trial would be held May 28 to June 8. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
The charges against Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Mohammed al-Darbi, 32, of Saudi Arabia, allege that he was part of an unrealized plot to bomb a ship in the Strait of Hormuz or off the coast of Yemen. The charge sheet alleges he traveled between Pakistan and the gulf from 2000 to 2002 and bought a boat, GPS equipment and other supplies for the plot.
But Darbi lost his nerve and instead set course for Somalia. Pentagon documents say he arrived at Guantanamo in March 2003, but do not say where or how he was captured. At Guantanamo, Darbi accused an Army private of beating and sexually humiliating him while he was a prisoner at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in December 2002.
The soldier was cleared after his lawyers got into the record that Darbi was the brother-in-law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Midhar.
Three British residents
released from the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay were reunited with their families yesterday for the first time in more than four years.
The three were flown
back from the U.S. prison camp Wednesday under a deal struck between London and Washington. All three had been held without charge or trial at Guantanamo for more than four years.
Jamil el-Banna, 45, and Libyan-born Omar Deghayes, 38, are wanted by Spanish authorities in connection with terror-related offenses. Both were ordered freed on bail in London. The third, Algerian Abdennour Sameur, 34, was released without charge.
accuse Banna and Deghayes of being overseas members of a Madrid-based al-Qaeda cell. Banna's attorney said he would fight extradition.
- Associated Press