The Miami Herald

9/11 victim can't speak at sentencing hearing

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- A military judge Wednesday spurned a Pentagon plan to have an FBI agent who was in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, testify as a victim at the sentencing hearing of Osama bin Laden's driver.

Judge Keith Allred, a Navy captain, also ruled that Salim Hamdan, 40, was entitled to 61 months and seven days of credit to any sentence a jury of six military officers might issue.

Defense and prosecution lawyers were expected to recommend a sentence later Wednesday in oral arguments. The jury will deliberate afterward.

The jurors will deliberate on the punishment phase in secret, and anonymously, as they did the verdict. Four out of six would have to agree to a sentence of 10 years or less, under military commission guidelines.

It will take a 5-1 secret ballot vote to sentence Hamdan to more than 10 years, up to and including the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Earlier, the jury convicted Hamdan of five counts of providing material support for terror, punishable by a maximum of life in prison. It cleared him of a more serious conspiracy charge alleging he conspired with al Qaeda to carry out the 9/11 attacks.

''If he were convicted of the conspiracy, he would be responsible for the acts of his co-conspirators,'' Allred said, refusing to let prosecutor John Murphy call FBI Agent Robert Fuller as a witness.

Murphy wanted Fuller to describe how he suffered lung damage and pulled corpses out of the rubble of the World Trade Center.

Allred said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which the Pentagon says killed 2,973 people, were ``so remotely the result of any small support [Hamdan] may have given, that it would be more prejudicial and appear to hold him responsible for the 9/11 attacks than be probative of what he actually knew. Or did. Or supported.''

Testimony at trial showed that Hamdan was unaware of the details of the complex hijacking plot before 9/11 but did not quit al Qaeda after learning of the consequences of the attacks.

The jury deliberated a little over eight hours across three days after hearing two weeks of evidence, including testimony from Fuller about Hamdan's admissions under interrogation.

The six military officers included three lieutenant colonels, two colonels and a Navy captain as foreman.

Defense lawyers later Wednesday called Hamdan's Guantánamo psychiatrist, a Pentagon-paid consultant who has seen the driver for more than 100 hours behind the razor wire of Camp Delta.

Dr. Emily Keram told the jury that Hamdan, who came from rural Yemen and had a fourth-grade education, wept in his cell after seeing a Pentagon video of the World Trade Center toppling amid screams on Sept. 11, 2001.

''He was devastated,'' she said. ``He told me it was like watching a mouse hitting an elephant. He had no idea that skyscrapers had that kind of scale. When people started crying he felt . . . his head was going to explode.''

Moreover, she said his goal in life is to go back to Yemen, be reunited with his family and start over, with no antagonism toward the Americans.

She reported him as relating in one conversation: ``I'll take my wife and my daughters and go to the desert with a camel and never talk to anyone again.''

Keram said she pressed Hamdan, who admitted to aspiring to return to the job that got him in trouble with bin Laden.

''I'll try to be a driver,'' she quoted him as telling her. ``But I'll take what I can get.''




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