2008-07-22 06:08:00 GMT 2008-07-22 14:08:00 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English
BEIJING, July 22 (Xinhuanet) -- Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, pleaded not guilty on Monday before a special "war on terror" military tribunal at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War II.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who has admitted driving for the fugitive al Qaeda leader, pleaded not guilty to the charges of of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism.
He could face life in prison if convicted by a jury of U.S. military officers.
Hamdan was tried in a hilltop courthouse overlooking Guantanamo Bay by a jury selected from a pool of 13 U.S. military officers flown in from around the world. Lawyers, journalists and human rights monitors are watching a trial that is seen as a test of the controversial tribunal system.
Prosecutors allege he was a trained terrorist who acted as Bin Laden's driver and bodyguard and was actively involved in the movement of weapons and senior al-Qaida personnel.
Hamdan's lawyers say he is not a member of al Qaeda and was merely a driver and mechanic in bin Laden's motor pool who needed the 200 U.S. dollars monthly salary. He entered a formal not guilty plea through his lawyers.
The trial comes seven years after the September 11 attacks and six and a half years after Guantanamo was opened to jail suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, to a chorus of international condemnation.
Hamdan has been detained since he was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001. He was held for the first six months in U.S. bases in Bagram and Kandahar and then at Guantanamo.