GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- In a historic split verdict that sets the stage for dozens more war crimes trials, a U.S. military jury on Wednesday convicted Osama bin Laden's driver of aiding terror but acquitted him of conspiring with al Qaeda.
Salim Hamdan, 40, bowed his head and wiped his eyes with his head scarf upon becoming the first man convicted at trial in the first U.S. war crimes tribunals since World War II.
The results were a mixed bag for a Bush administration that had doggedly defended its new war court, created to stage offshore justice after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The jury of six U.S. military officers took nearly nine hours to convict Hamdan on five counts of providing material support for terror, as a war crime.
But by day's end the military judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, declared the five convictions redundant and ordered the jury to sentence him on only one charge. Moreover, he interpreted the acquittal on two conspiracy charges as clearing Hamdan of the allegation that the driver was responsible for 9/11.
So the judge banned the government from letting FBI agent Robert Fuller describe to the jury how he dug through the rubble of the World Trade Center before they start deliberating a sentence.
''He was such a small player,'' said Allred of Hamdan, out of earshot of the jury. He summed up the Yemeni's role in 9/11 as "driving Mr. bin Laden around Afghanistan.''
The same military officers who convicted him are expected to begin deliberations Thursday afternoon on whether to give him the maximum sentence -- life in prison.
Meantime, the father of two with a fourth-grade education went back to the same place where he has been held since U.S. troops brought him from Afghanistan for interrogation in May 2002: Camp Delta, the sprawling, razor wire-ringed prison camp complex overlooking the Caribbean.
The admiral in charge of the camp said the military would hold convicts separately, away from the majority of war-on-terror detainees.
Hamdan is the first war court convict. But the Pentagon has charged 20 others -- seven facing charges carrying the death penalty -- and wants to prosecute as many as 80 of the 265 men now held here as "enemy combatants.''
A spokesman's statement declared the White House ''pleased that Salim Hamdan received a fair trial,'' and eager for more trials.
Next up is Omar Khadr, a Canadian accused of throwing a grenade in a July 2002 firefight in Afghanistan that killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier. His trial date is Oct. 8.
Already charged are five alleged 9/11 co-conspirators, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, for whom the Pentagon seeks military execution. Their next pre-trial hearing is Sept. 11, with no trial expected before the next U.S. president takes office.
The Pentagon's chief prosecutor, Army Col. Lawrence Morris, declared the split verdict proof of the integrity of the military trials. A mixture of acquittals and convictions, he said, ``well reflects an independent, properly operating system of justice.''
Critics called Hamdan's conviction a travesty.
Material support for terror was not a war crime until President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act in 2006, passed by Congress after Hamdan's American lawyers challenged the first war court format to the U.S. Supreme Court, and won.
''It convicted a truck driver of being guilty of driving a truck,'' said John Wesley Hall, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.