By Nina Shapiro
After nine years, the case against Osama Bin Laden’s onetime chauffeur, Salim Hamdan, is finally over. Hamdan’s defense team, housed within the veteran Seattle firm Perkins Coie, heard on Friday that the federal government will not appeal a ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that vacated the Yemeni national’s conviction for providing material support for terrorism.
That leaves the D.C. Circuit ruling standing as a precedent that could affect a range of cases tried by U.S. military commissions, including those now pending against accused 9/11 conspirators.
*See Also: Driving Bin Laden: Salim Hamdan
As Rick Anderson chronicled in a fascinating cover story, Hamdan was captured in November 2001 as he attempted to pass an Afghan militia guard post. Bin Laden, who had fled that part of Afghanistan by then, wasn’t in the car. His escape may have frustrated the U.S. government, but the feds were determined to nail the man they had. They took Hamdan to Guantamo Bay. Anderson writes:
The government would draw a dark picture of Hamdan, noting his alias was “The Hawk,” and said bin Laden had held a wedding party for him. He had driven the terrorist chief to news conferences and speeches, and sometimes carried a machine gun–though apparently he never fired it. Still, there was little persuasive evidence that his duties amounted to much more than driving bin Laden and helping run the car pool. As The New York Times put it, “Mr. Hamdan’s offenses are not enumerated anywhere, but appear to include checking the oil and the tire pressure.
Hamdan’s case followed many twists and turns, through a variety of courts and lawyers. In the end, though, the government was unable to prove its darkest allegations. A military jury acquitted Hamdan of conspiracy in 2008, but found him guilty of a lesser material-support charge. Then, last October, the D.C. Circuit ruled that even that conviction couldn’t stand.