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Reaction to verdict in Gitmo terror trial

  • Story Highlights
  • Osama bin Laden's ex-driver found guilty on some charges, cleared on others
  • ACLU official: "This has been a monumental debacle of American justice"
  • Military trials are a "fair and appropriate legal process," White House says
  • Rights attorney: Process "will never be seen as legitimate by the world"
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, was found guilty of providing material support to a terror organization Wednesday. In a split verdict, a U.S. military jury found Hamdan was not guilty of conspiracy to aid a terror group.

Osama bin Laden's ex-driver, Salim Hamdan, in an undated photo, faces a possible life sentence.

Hamdan's trial was the first conducted under the Military Commissions Act, a law passed in 2006 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against an earlier Bush administration plan for trying detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under military rules.

Politicians and legal experts have been split on the use of military courts to try suspected terrorists. Following the verdict, officials weighed in on the outcome of the trial and its proceedings:

"We respect the decision of the court, and we will move forward on the prosecution of the 20 other cases in the system. Both parties, the defense and prosecution, zealously gave their cases to the commission. Hamdan got a fair trial. The full extent of the law and the facts were presented in the courtroom.

"Hamdan is now considered a convicted war criminal and is no longer considered an enemy combatant and will be held separately from the other detainees at Guantanamo because of his new status.

"The decision by the jury will now go through a number of reviews as provided by the rules and regulations of the commission."
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman

"Any verdict resulting from such a flawed system is a betrayal of American values. The rules for the Guantanamo military commissions are so flawed that justice could never be served. From start to finish, this has been a monumental debacle of American justice.

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"The judgment against Hamdan undoubtedly will be challenged in legitimate courts, but there is no appeal from the judgment of future generations. This system was devised to permit the prosecution of alleged wrongdoing by detainees, while continuing to cover up the wrongdoing by government interrogators. Trials that are shrouded in secrecy and tainted by coercion are the very antithesis of American justice."
Anthony Romero, American Civil Liberties Union's executive director

"We're pleased that Salim Hamdan received a fair trial. Hamdan was alleged to have committed serious war crimes involving terrorist activity. The government presented its case against him and bore the burden of proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Hamdan was presumed innocent and had an opportunity to present a defense against the charges. The military commission convicted Hamdan of material support for terrorism.

"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. We look forward to other cases moving forward to trial."
White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto

"I welcome today's guilty verdict in the first trial held under the Military Commissions Act. This process of bringing terrorists to justice has been too long delayed, but I'm encouraged that it is finally moving forward. ...

"The fact that the jury did not find Hamdan guilty of all of the charges brought against him demonstrates that the jury weighed the evidence carefully."
Sen. John McCain, presumptive Republican presidential nominee

"That the Hamdan trial -- the first military commission trial with a guilty verdict since 9/11 -- took several years of legal challenges to secure a conviction for material support for terrorism underscores the dangerous flaws in the administration's legal framework. It's time to better protect the American people and our values by bringing swift and sure justice to terrorists through our courts and our Uniform Code of Military Justice. And while it is important to convict anyone who provides material support for terrorism, it is long past time to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and the terrorists who murdered nearly 3,000 Americans."
Sen. Barack Obama, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee

"The Pentagon must be very proud of itself today. It was able to obtain a conviction of arguably the least-culpable among the 80 detainees it intends to prosecute as war criminals. It convicted a truck driver of being guilty of driving a truck."
John Wesley Hall, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers president


"Hamdan's trial violated two of the most fundamental criminal justice principles accepted by all civilized nations: the prohibition on the use of coerced evidence and the prohibition on retroactive criminal laws.

"The decision to keep these cases out of the ordinary criminal courts will produce years of appeals over novel legal issues raised by the untested military commissions system. Even after those appeals are finished, the process will never be seen as legitimate by the world."
Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative

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