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Bin Laden driver arraigned at Guantanamo
Updated: 2004-08-24 22:49

Osama bin Laden's chauffeur was arraigned Tuesday at the first U.S. military tribunal since World War II, appearing at a pretrial session as defense lawyers sought to challenge the process.

Undated photo of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, released by his attorneys August 24, 2004. Hamdan was apprehended in Afghanistan in November 2001 and has been detained at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since then. [Reuters]
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 34-year-old Yemeni, smiled as he appeared without handcuffs or shackles. He wore a flowing white robe and a tan suit jacket with a long shawl over his shoulders.

His lawyers have said he earned a pittance for his family as bin Laden's driver before the Sept. 11 attack. But U.S. officials allege he did more, serving as the al-Qaida leader's bodyguard and delivering weapons to his operatives.

Hamdan was the first detainee to appear before a U.S. military commission that allows for secret evidence and no federal appeals, in the first such proceeding since World War II.

"This process goes against everything that we fought for in the history of the United States," Hamdan's attorney Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift said beforehand, challenging the government's classification of his client as an "enemy combatant." Hamdan denies supporting terrorism.

Swift said in a handout released before the hearing that he planned to ask that the charges be dismissed, because the commissions were going ahead without giving his client an opportunity to contest his classification as an "enemy combatant" in U.S. civilian courts.

"The defense believes that not only is this a breach of faith with the civilian courts but if the commission proceedings occur on Tuesday, that they will substantially prejudice any chance Mr. Hamdan might have at a fair hearing before the combatant status review panel as well as during subsequent commission proceedings," Swift said.

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