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Bin Laden's Driver Gets Short Prison Stint

Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver, was sentenced on Thursday to 5 1/2 years in prison for providing material support for terrorism. But he will serve only a few months.

Hamdan, a Yemeni with a fourth-grade education, will get credit for the 61 months he has already spent in custody while awaiting trial, according to the military judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred.

The sentence was recommended by the same six military jurors at Guantanamo Bay who convicted Hamdan on Wednesday of material support for terrorism but acquitted him of the more serious charge of conspiracy.

The sentence now goes for mandatory review to a Pentagon official, who can shorten the sentence — but not extend it.

It's unclear what will happen to Hamdan after he serves the time ordered Thursday. The U.S. government has, however, argued it can detain Hamdan and other "enemy combatants" indefinitely as long as the war on terrorism continues.

The trial was the first test of a war crimes tribunal authorized by the Bush administration to try non-U.S. captives on terrorism charges outside the regular civilian and military courts.

During the punishment phase of the trial earlier Thursday, prosecutors had asked the jury to sentence Hamdan to at least 30 years.

They urged jurors to consider life in prison and to make an example of the man. "The government asks you to deliver a sentence that will absolutely keep our society safe from him," said prosecutor John Murphy.

Hamdan, however, pleaded for the jury to spare him a harsh sentence, saying he never joined al-Qaida or knew in advance of its plots but joined bin Laden's motor pool in Afghanistan for the $200 monthly salary.

"I couldn't beg," Hamdan said, reading in Arabic from a prepared statement. "I had to work."

He said he was sorry for the deaths of innocent people on Sept. 11, 2001, according to a Pentagon transcript. His apology was not heard by reporters because the sound was turned off to protect classified information.

Allred, who has described Hamdan as a "small player," previously ruled the defendant should receive five years of credit for time served at Guantanamo Bay.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press.

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