U.S. loses prison camp records of bin Laden's driver

Thu Feb 7, 2008 3:04pm EST
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By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - The U.S. military has lost a year's worth of records describing the Guantanamo interrogation and confinement of Osama bin Laden's driver, a prosecutor said at the Yemeni captive's war court hearing on Thursday.

Lawyers for the driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, asked for the records to support their argument that prolonged isolation and harassment at the Guantanamo prison have mentally impaired him and compromised his ability to aid in his defense on war crimes charges.

"All known records have been produced with the exception of the 2002 Gitmo records," one of the prosecutors, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Stone, told the court. "They can't find it."

He said the military was still looking for the records kept at the remote U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba, which he referred to by its nickname.

President George W. Bush authorized the Guantanamo court to prosecute suspected al Qaeda members on grounds that the existing military and civilian courts were not adequate to prosecute terrorism charges against war captives who are not part of any national army.

Hamdan, who is in his late 30s, was the prisoner whose lawsuit prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the initial Guantanamo war crimes system. The charges against him were twice dismissed and then refiled and the military hopes to begin his trial in May.

Hamdan was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 and faces life in prison if convicted on charges of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. He has said he never joined al Qaeda but worked as bin Laden's driver in Afghanistan because he needed the $200 monthly salary.


<p>Omar Khadr is seen in this undated family portrait. A U.S. soldier's account casting doubts on military prosecutors' claims against Khadr highlights one inherent difficulty of the Bush administration's efforts to win convictions before war crimes tribunals in Guantanamo. REUTERS/Handout</p>