[JURIST] Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] was sentenced Thursday to five and a half years in prison [AP report] following his conviction [JURIST report] Wednesday of providing material support for terrorism [charge sheet, PDF] through his association with Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders. Hamdan had pleaded for leniency after apologizing for the deaths caused by his counterparts, and was given credit for the five years he has been detained since charges were first brought against him, meaning he could be released in as few as six months. The verdict was the first rendered by a military commission trial at Guantanamo Bay. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the conviction [press release], saying it "represent[ed] nothing more than an illusion of justice" and called for an end to the commission system. Prosecutors in the case had sought a sentence of at least 30 years. AP has more.
Hamdan has been in US custody since 2001, when he was captured in Afghanistan and accused of working as Osama Bin Laden's driver. In 2006 he successfully challenged US President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the commission system as initially constituted violated US and international law. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system. In April, Hamdan announced that he planned to boycott his military commission trial, and in May a military judge delayed the trial [JURIST reports] until July. A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia subsequently rejected [JURIST report] a bid by Hamdan's lawyers to stay his trial, ruling that a civilian court should refrain from reviewing the case until the military commission issues a final judgment. In July, the military court denied [JURIST report] Hamdan's motion to dismiss the charges against him, holding that the military commission assigned to his trial had jurisdiction to hear the case.