In August, Osama bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan was sentenced by a military commission at Guantanamo Bay to 66 months, with credit for time served.
It is now reported that, on September 24, the military prosecutors moved for reconsideration of that sentence. Their basis for reconsideration is that the military commission that sentenced Hamdan lacked the power to give credit for time served.
“The length of the sentence is a matter of indifference to us,” said head prosecutor Col. Lawrence Morris. So far as the government is concerned, Hamdan can get out in December as scheduled or whenever. But though the sentence itself is unimportant, the procedural method is a big deal to the prosecution.
It would appear that this is so because perhaps 80 of the Guantanamo detainees are looking at military commissions, rather than courts-martial. A court-martial could impose a time-served sentence. The government is fearful that the Hamdan case sets a precedent so that these 80 commission-sentenced detainees could also receive time served.
If the government wins its argument, Hamdan could be resentenced to a short term allowing him to get out in December, or he could be compelled to serve a further 62 months.
Needless to say, this is a compelling issue with high stakes for the government, the defendant, and a lot of detainees. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.