The Islamic Post Blog

American People Gain Victory Over Guantanamo In Hamdan Case by Khalida
October 3, 2008, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, Sept/Oct Volume - 2008, World | Tags:
Matthew Bradley)

The Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest presented the annual Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage to Air Force Lt. Col. Sharon Shaffer (center) and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles D. Swift (right) in 2005 for their defense of Guantanamo Bay prisoners and challenge of a Presidential order. (Photo: Matthew Bradley)

By Raheemah Atif, Islamic Post Staff Writer

Naval lawyer Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, who represented Salim Hamdan at Guantanamo Bay, is now Retired and setting up his law practice in Seattle, according to the Seattle Pi. Lt. Cmdr. Swift told a Town Hall forum this month in Seattle that his fight against unfettered presidential power boiled down to the premise that “no one is above the law.”
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift’s lawsuit famously compared President Bush’s actions in trying his client — a Yemeni tribesman who was Osama Bin Laden’s chauffeur — with King George III’s draconian practices in colonial America, the Seattle Pi reported. Swift made the analogy to a federal judge in Seattle, where he first filed the landmark case asserting Bush overstepped his authority when he bypassed Congress and set up military tribunals to try detainees at the Navy base at Guantanamo, Cuba.
After 66 months of imprisonment at Guantanamo detainment camp, Salim Hamdan, a purported driver of Osama bin Laden, finally had his day in court, the first of the official U.S. Tribunal commissions ordered by the Bush administration to try the cases of individuals captured in Iraq and Afghanistan, and labeled as “enemy combatants.”
Hamdan’s  prosecution and defense presentations were heard by six military officers who comprised the jury.  That jury finally acquitted Mr. Hamdan of conspiracy to attack the U.S. as an agent of al-Qaeda, leaving one charge of providing material support for terrorism in his act of transporting weaponry.
The sentence for the latter charge amounting to the 61 months that Hamdan has already served at Guantanamo, plus six additional months imprisonment. The trial was conducted under unusually strict secrecy, with only selected journalists, officials, and attorneys permitted in the courtroom, and with the prosecution very confident of a conviction carrying a much stiffer sentence on the strength of their claim of solid evidence in their possession.
The decision of the military commission jury sent an unexpected message to the Bush administration that, despite the inflammatory press, and the prosecution’s intention to project Mr. Hamdan as a hardened al-Qaeda stalwart, the facts born out during the testimony and evidence presented during the trial did not validate as such. The “honor and integrity” of the jury members, civilian attorney defense team member Joseph Mc Millan stated to the press,  enabled their arrival at a fair sentence in the end.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick (his last name was purposely withheld), member of the military jury, commented, “In none of the evidence presented did you ever see him brandishing a weapon at all.  Even when he was captured and the evidence all showed that there was an AK-47 right there in the front seat, the guys behind him and in front of him deployed weapons; he bailed out of the car and ran.”
Most of the Guantanamo prisoners are being released because of a lack of evidence to continue holding them; while the Bush administration removed more “important” prisoners to secret overseas prisons early on, refusing to surrender them for trial.  Such was the case with Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, being held in connection with the September 11 attacks.
Mr. Hamdan explained in a statement which he read in Arabic before the jury that he merely had an “employer/employee” relationship with Osama bin Laden, and repeatedly apologized to the American people for any hardship or pain caused them. Military judge Navy Captain Keith Alldred wished him and his family the best upon his return to home.
The fulfillment of the remaining six months of incarceration, however, is not a guarantee that he will be released as the Federal government has classified Mr. Hamdan as an “enemy combatant,” and as such could still be subject to indefinite detainment.


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