GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - The U.S. military judge who presided over the first war-crimes trial at Guantanamo Bay on Thursday rejected a prosecution request to reassemble jurors in order to reconsider sentencing for Osama bin Laden's driver.
Navy Capt. Keith Allred, the judge in the trial of Salim Hamdan, denied a prosecution motion arguing that Hamdan should not receive credit for his time detained at this U.S. offshore prison as an "enemy combatant."
A jury of six U.S. military officers sentenced Hamdan to 5 1/2 years in prison at Guantanamo's first war-crimes trial earlier this year. Since Hamdan had already served five years and a month, he is eligible for release by January.
"The sentence the jury saw fit to impose on August 7 will be respected, despite the administration's attempt to vacate it. We expect that Mr. Hamdan will be pleased as well, once he learns about the ruling," said Harry Schneider, a civilian attorney for the prisoner.
Guantanamo prosecutors had sought a sentence of 30 years to life for the Yemeni prisoner, whose trial inaugurated the special commission system in July. They hoped to call the jurors back to Guantanamo to reconsider.
But during the trial, jurors were informed by Allred that time already served would count toward the sentence before they began their deliberations.
Army Col. Lawrence Morris, the chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo tribunals, declined to comment on Thursday's ruling, telling reporters he had not yet read the decision.
His defense counterpart, Army Col. Pete Masciola, said it was "good to see that the judge made a fair decision in the case."
Hamdan, so far the only convicted detainee at Guantanamo, was found guilty of supporting terrorism but acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy at the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War II.
The 40-year-old Guantanamo prisoner could be held indefinitely regardless of the sentence. The Pentagon reserves the right to hold him and other "enemy combatants" who are considered dangerous to the United States - even those who are acquitted or complete sentences in the tribunal system.
Carol Chodroff of Human Rights Watch, who is observing a trial here this week, called for Hamdan's release.
"It would be a travesty to hold Mr. Hamdan for a moment beyond the date when the panelists ruled he should be released," she said. "The commission has clearly found he is not a threat to the United States."