Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:25 pm (KSA) 09:25 am (GMT)

Bin Laden driver asks for leniency at sentencing

Prosecutors insist the Yemeni remains a dangerous man
Prosecutors insist the Yemeni remains a dangerous man

Osama bin Laden's ex-driver apologized for innocents killed and appealed for leniency Thursday, as U.S. military prosecutors sought a stiff 30-years-to-life sentence following his conviction for supporting terrorism.

"It was a sorry or sad thing to see innocent people killed," Salim Hamdan said at his sentencing hearing at the remote U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"I personally present my apologies to them if anything what I did have caused them pain," he said, speaking in Arabic through an interpreter.

But prosecutors insisted the Yemeni remains a dangerous man and said he should get at least 30 years behind bars for his work for the al-Qaeda chief.

"You should consider life sentencing possibilities when you consider the facts in this case," prosecutor John Murphy told the court, adding that Hamdan should be imprisoned for "not less than 30 years."

A tough sentence will bring "a consequence so great that others will think again before they ally themselves with Osama bin Laden or the next Osama bin Laden," Murphy said.

Hamdan's defense lawyers said Hamdan posed no danger as a former driver, regretted his links to bin Laden and suggested he should not be sentenced for more than 45 months.

Swift argued that due to his client's alleged cooperation with interrogators the United States had benefited more than al-Qaeda had from his client's work as a driver and bodyguard.

Seeking leniency

Hamdan said he had worked for bin Laden because he needed to support his family but had serious misgivings over time about his employer.

Hamdan and his lawyers sought leniency after the Yemeni was cleared on more serious charges that he conspired and plotted attacks for al-Qaeda, and pointed to the case of Australian David Hicks.

Hicks pleaded guilty last year in Guantanamo to a similar charge in a plea deal. He was given seven years, which was then suspended to nine months for time already served.

Hamdan, aged around 40 and with a 4th-grade education, was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 and has been held at Guantanamo since 2002.

The Navy officer presiding over the case, Keith Allred, has ruled that Hamdan would be given credit for more than five years spent at the Guantanamo prison since he was initially charged.

But the U.S. Defense Department has made clear that whatever his sentence, U.S. authorities retain the right to keep him in prison for an indefinite period as an "unlawful enemy combatant."

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