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Hamdan’s conviction dashes hopes for Gitmo justice Wednesday, 13 August, 2008

Posted by Farbod in Interviews.
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Wed, 06 Aug 2008 21:26:13 GMT
By Afshin Rattansi, Press TV, Tehran

Press TV interviewed Andy Worthington from Reprieve, a human rights group which gives legal representation to prisoners being treated unjustly by powerful governments.

>Press TV: 7 years after 9-11, more than a million dead perhaps in Iraq, tens of thousands in Afghanistan. They’ve failed to convict in the first US war crimes tribunal since World War Two – at least on the more serious charge of conspiracy. Your reaction Andy?

Andy Worthington: Well, I have to say that it’s good that the military jury didn’t go with all the charges that were put against Mr. Hamdan. The problem with this is that even with the lesser charges of providing material support for terrorism, which is justified by his having worked as a paid employee for Osama bin Laden, still I think means that he’s probably going to face life in prison. Then the real problem is that this whole system, this whole flight from the norms of domestic and international law, this whole flight from the Geneva Convention. The justification for it was that this was going to involve prosecuting the really dangerous people who were responsible for the events of 9-11. There was no suggestion in this trial that Mr. Hamdan had ever raised arms against the United States. It’s a rather sad start to the whole process that’s supposed to justify all this injustice of the last six and a half years that we’re looking a the prosecution of the man who was one of seven drivers for Osama bin Laden, took no part in any of these events, was not privy to any kind of valuable insider information. I think it’s really a rather distressing result.

Press TV: The reports we’re getting say that he will be sentenced to life imprisonment for material support. Is that just because he drove bin Laden around? Why is there a sentence of life for driving terrorists around?

Andy Worthington:Well I have absolutely no idea. His defense team has argued for a long time that he should have been held as a prisoner of war. Of course one of the things about the US run war on terror is that nobody got held as a prisoner of war – nobody had those rights. If they had we would be talking about whether it was justifiable to hold a prisoner of war until the end of hostilities when there seems to be no end of hostilities in sight. The administration says the war could go on for generations. I can’t see any justification that having driven bin Laden around made him in any serious way involved in Al-Qaeda. I find it incomprehensible really.

Press TV: If your organization was representing him what would you be saying to him now?

Andy Worthington: Well, I have absolutely no idea what I would be saying to him now. Poor Mr. Hamdan won a couple of serious victories in the American courts in the years past but none of it’s done him any good. He had a ruling in the district court that said that his detention under military commissions were unjust in 2004. That was then reversed and that was the case that went to the Supreme Court in 2006 when he won triumphantly. The military commission system was thrown out as unconstitutional and unlawful. It was then revived, the president pushed it through Congress later that year in a slightly amended form but it’s really the same thing has come back to haunt him and this time around to convict him. The poor man must have absolutely no sense of where justice is. Now they’re talking about how he’ll have to be held in complete isolation in a prison in Guantanamo for the rest of his life. The great disgrace that really shows up how this is not a just trial system is the fact that the administration has long stated that even if anyone was to be cleared after a trial by military commission they could be held forever as an enemy combatant anyway.

Press TV: What does this mean for the other prisoners in Guantanamo Bay?

Andy Worthington: We haven’t heard quite what the sentence will be. We expect that it will be a life sentence. I also expect that this will be challenged because we haven’t really heard the end of the story of what happens when essentially what is a rogue administration tries to set up its own laws. There are many, many people in the United States and the number is increasing all the time who would like to see their nation return to the rule of law not to start adopting things that look like show trials that were invented in a moment of heat and vengeance and are really unjustifiable because they betray fundamental core American values. I would hope that this is challenged and that eventually this system will be done away with. In the mean time for the people who are looking on, I can’t see that this is going to give them much hope. The thing with a blanket charge of material support for terrorism is that it potentially implicates anybody who was tangentially involved in any of the conflict at the time that they were arrested and not what I think it was supposed to be set up to do which was to deal with the really dangerous people involved in terrorist activity.

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