- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The White House said Wednesday it’s pleased with the outcome of the war crimes trial of a former driver for Osama bin Laden, although the jury delivered a split verdict.

The jury of six military officers at Guantanamo Bay cleared Salim Hamdan of conspiracy charges but convicted him of supporting terrorism, which could send him to prison for life.

Critics have questioned the fairness of the military commissions. A White House spokesman defended the process.

“We’re pleased that Salim Hamdan received a fair trial,” deputy spokesman Tony Fratto said in a statement.

Mr. Fratto said Hamdan was presumed innocent and had an opportunity to present a defense against war crimes charges.

“The Military Commission system is a fair and appropriate legal process for prosecuting detainees alleged to have committed crimes against the United States or our interests,” Mr. Fratto said. “We look forward to other cases moving forward to trial.”

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said Hamdan was “zealously represented by his defense team. The jury made their decision based on the law and the facts presented in court. We respect that decision.”

He added that the Pentagon intends to go forward with additional prosecutions on the 20 other cases that are currently in the military commission system.

Mr. Whitman discounted suggestions that, once sentenced, Hamdan eventually could serve his time at another federal facility in the United States.

“I know of no planning or initiatives to move the convicted war criminals to anywhere other than where they’re at in Guantanamo,” he said.

Plans are to confine Hamdan separately from the rest of the general population at Guantanamo because his status has changed from unlawful combatant to convicted war criminal.

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