Bin Laden driver's trial begins

Former driver for al-Qaeda leader pleads not guilty at Guantanamo Bay tribunal.

    Hamdan has been held at Guantanamo Bay
    since 2002 [EPA]

    The prosecution alleges Hamdan was affiliated with the al-Qaeda network's inner circle and claims he was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 - shortly after the US-led invasion of the country - with two surface-to-air missiles in his car.

    However Hamdan's lawyers say he was only a driver and mechanic in bin Laden's extended circle and needed the $200 monthly salary he was given.

    Court challenges

    In June this year the US Supreme Court ruled that detainees held in Guantanamo Bay could challenge their detention in civilian courts.

    However, a federal judge last week rejected a request from Hamdan's lawyers to delay his trial so he could challenge his detention.

    The trial is expected to take from three to four weeks, with testimony from around two dozen Pentagon witnesses.

    The jury will be selected from a pool of 13 US military officers flown in from around the world and will have at least five members.

    Ahead of the trial, Keith Allred, the presiding judge, threw out some statements made by Hamdan to interrogators at the US air base in Bagram, Afghanistan and in Panjsher valley, also in Afghanistan.

    Hamdan has been held at the facility since 2002, mostly in isolation.

    Defence lawyers working for many of the roughly 260 detainees still being held at Guantanamo Bay say many of their clients' statements to interrogators were coerced.

    Earlier this month five men, including alleged September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were charged with crimes relating to the 2001 attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people.

    Lawyers for Hamdan plan to call Mohammed and a second of those charged, Walid bin Attash, as witnesses in his trial to support his contention that he was not a member of al-Qaeda.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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