Thursday, August 7, 2008

"I Wish You Godspeed, Mr. Hamden"

(AP Photo)

Today Salim Hamdan was ordered by his US military jury to serve 66 months in prison; with credit for time served, he will be eligible to leave Guantanamo Bay by January. Much deserves to be said about the rejection of the prosecution's claim that Hamdan was a dangerous al Qaeda member who deserved a life sentence. Today we celebrate that justice was served despite the system of structures created to sustain injustice. In a time and place where so much of what happens is devoted to erasing all signs of the individual and the personal, the human gestures described below by McClatchy journalist Carol Rosenberg are worth remembering and repeating.

In court, Hamdan's longest-serving defense attorney, retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift, clasped the more diminutive Yemeni in a bearhug and both men openly wept.

Afterwards, Swift vowed that lawyers would work to send Hamdan home to his wife and two daughters by January. Lawyers were prepared to go straight to federal court with a habeas corpus petition, he said, were the U.S. to seek to continue to hold the driver after the sentence were done.

''What happened — despite the system — is justice,'' said Swift.

After the jury's verdict, the judge turned to the convicted terrorist and said:

"I wish you godspeed, Mr. Hamdan. I hope the day comes when you return to your wife and your daughters and your country.''

''God willing,'' the man in traditional Yemeni robe and head scarf replied in Arabic, interrupting.

The judge continued: "And I hope that you are able to be a father, and a provider, and a husband in the best sense of the word.''

Then the detainee said it again: "Inshallah.''

Allred replied in Arabic. "Inshallah.''

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