WASHINGTON, (AFP) – Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former driver held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be transferred to his home in Yemen, US media reported Tuesday.
Hamdan is expected to arrive in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 48 hours, where he will serve the remainder of his sentence, The Washington Post reported.
A jury of six US military officers at a Guantanamo terrorism trial in August sentenced Hamdan to five years and six months in prison for supporting terrorism, which, taking into account time served, amounted to only an additional five months.
“The conditions of Hamdan’s release are that Yemen will hold him until Dec. 27 and will then let him go and continue to mitigate any threat he might pose to the United States and its allies,” the Post said, citing a senior diplomatic official speaking on the condition of anonymity because Hamdan is yet to arrive in Yemen.
The Pentagon refused to confirm the report.
“In general we don’t talk about transfers until they are completed,” Pentagon spokesman Mark Ballesteros told AFP.
Hamdan, a native of Yemen and about 40 years old, was picked up by US forces in Afghanistan in late 2001, and arrived at the Guantanamo prison in 2002.
Around 100 of the roughly 250 “war on terror” suspects held in Guantanamo are from Yemen. Washington has not reached an agreement with Sanaa that would allow US officials to send home more Yemeni prisoners.
“We have not had confidence that the Yemeni government would take the required measures to protect civilian population from the detainees once released,” another Pentagon spokesman, Commander Jeffrey Gordon, told AFP.
Hamdan was bin Laden’s former driver and sometimes bodyguard, but denied any involvement in terrorist activities.
During the trial Hamdan’s lawyers emphasized that their client had cooperated with US officials ever since he was detained.
Prosecutors tried to portray Hamdan as a cunning “Al-Qaeda warrior” and ruthless henchman to bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.
But defense attorneys described him as merely a hapless driver and insignificant figure within the Al-Qaeda network.
Between 1996 and November of 2001, Hamdan drove or accompanied bin Laden to various Al-Qaeda-sponsored training camps, press conferences or lectures, the indictment said.
In the trial Hamdan was found guilty on one count of providing material support to terrorism, but was cleared of more serious charges that he conspired and plotted attacks for Al-Qaeda.
The US military’s practice of holding Guantanamo inmates indefinitely without charge has been condemned at home and abroad as a violation of basic legal and human rights.