A juror from the military commission that listened to the case of Osama bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamden, told the Wall Street Journal that Hamden appeared mild mannered and not like someone who hated other people. Before and after his sentencing, Hamden apologised for any harm his actions might have caused, and afterwards thanked both the judge and the jury for the 66 month sentence he received for a charge of providing material support to terrorists. He drove a car that had radios and guns inside. Since Hamden has already been at Guantanamo for 60 months, he should be released in January, the same month the United States will finally be released from George W Bush. But the same juror seemed surprised to hear that the 66 month sentence may prove irrelevant since the Bush administration can, if it so deems, keep Hamden in prison forever if they think he fits the description of an “unlawful enemy combatant”.
The worldwide silence on the issue of Guantanamo Bay is deafening. People are being held there without trial or charge. Numerous respected bodies have proof of torture being carried out as a matter of course- but silence allows its continuation. And now Bush and Company will flagrantly ignore their own justice system and keep a man in prison even after he has served his time- just because the rules that they made up say they can.
For how long will the Americans be allowed to use 9/11 as just cause to violate people’s human rights? For how long will the world keep silent while they do this? One wonders – who will stand up for Salim Hamden who in the end has done nothing more than try to provide for his family by taking a job as a driver? There is a line in a Holly Near song that says “It could have been me but instead it was you” which seems so apt here. Any of us could be standing in Salim Hamden’s shoes, perhaps that is what is so chilling about the Americans’ response to his sentence.