GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — Osama bin Laden's former driver walked out on his war-crimes tribunal Tuesday, saying he did not believe justice was possible at the U.S. military base where he has been held for nearly six years.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni, is the fourth alleged al-Qaida operative at Guantanamo Bay to refuse to participate in America's first U.S. war-crimes courts since World War II — a system that he says lacks the fairness of traditional U.S. courts.
"I do not want to come to this court because there is no such thing as justice here," said Hamdan, who smiled as he explained his reasoning in a polite, 40-minute exchange with the judge.
The judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, said he empathized with Hamdan's frustrations over his prison conditions and the delays in a trial that has been derailed twice by legal challenges.
But he encouraged Hamdan not to fire his attorneys, noting they won a 2006 Supreme Court verdict with his case that struck down an earlier tribunal system.
"You beat the United States once in our system with these attorneys that are here with you today," Allred said.
After a short recess, the pretrial hearing reconvened without Hamdan.
Hamdan was captured at a roadblock in southern Afghanistan in November 2001, allegedly with two surface-to-air missiles in the car. He faces up to life in prison if the tribunal convicts him of conspiracy and supporting terrorism.