In August 2008, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who worked as a driver for Osama bin Laden, became the first Guantanamo detainee to go to trial before the military commissions. He was convicted of providing material support for terrorism and sentenced to five-and-a-half years of imprisonment, although he received credit for time served, resulting in him only having to serve an additional five and a half months in custody He was sent home to Yemen in November 2008, to serve out the last month of his sentence, and was released in January 2009. In October 2012, the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, overturned Hamdan’s conviction, finding that the law at the time of his conduct only permitted prosecution for war crimes, and that material support for terrorism was not a war crime.
Hamdan was captured by Afghan forces and handed over to the US military in late 2001. He was initially charged with conspiracy before the military commission in July 2004. He challenged the legality of the commissions in a case that went to the Supreme Court. In June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the military commissions initially authorized by President Bush were unlawful because the president had not obtained congressional authority to establish them. Four months later, in September 2006, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act authorizing a new system of military commissions. In May 2007, Hamdan was charged under the new system with conspiracy to commit terrorism and providing material support for terrorism for serving as bin Laden's driver and transporting weapons and other supplies to aid in fighting against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
In August 2008, a military jury cleared him of conspiracy charges, finding him guilty only of providing material support. He was sentenced to five-and-a-half years, but given credit for more than five years of time served. Although the Bush administration claimed it had the right hold “unlawful enemy combatants” for as long as the “global war on terror” is under way, US officials sent Hamdan back to Yemen on November 25 to serve the remaining month of his sentence. He was released by Yemeni authorities on January 12, 2009.
Hamdan has claimed that US forces beat, punched and kicked him, as well as held him in stress positions and subjected him to severe cold in Afghanistan. At Guantanamo, Hamdan was reportedly held in solitary confinement in a windowless cell for nearly a year. Evidence to substantiate these allegations - as well as evidence that Hamdan was sexually harassed by interrogators and subjected to sleep deprivation - were presented at his trial, however much of it was classified and presented in secret so the public was kept in the dark about US abuses. (Last updated December 10, 2012)