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, 37, 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 planned to call Hamdan's Guantanamo psychiatrist, a Pentagon-paid consultant who has seen the driver for more than 100 hours behind the razor wire of Camp Delta.

Hamdan saw the doctor, at the request of his attorneys, on and off for years after he was placed in a special pretrial status in July 2003.

Related stories from Columbus Ledger-Enquirer