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US court overturns Bin Laden driver's conviction

A US appeals court has overturned the conviction of Osama bin Laden's former driver, who was imprisoned for providing material support for terrorism.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan's conviction was thrown out Tuesday by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

A unanimous ruling by three judges concluded that supporting terrorism was not a war crime at the time of his alleged activities between 1996 and 2001. The law against material support for terrorism was passed in 2006 in response to Hamdan's case, but the court ruled it could not apply to him retroactively.

US forces captured Hamdan at an Afghanistan roadblock in 2001, shortly after the Americans invaded the country following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

He was sentenced in 2008 to five-and-a-half years in prison by a military commission in what was the first US war crimes trial since World War Two. Hamdan was convicted of providing material support for terrorism as the driver and bodyguard of Bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, who was killed in Pakistan last year.

Hamdan was given credit for time served at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and returned to Yemen in November 2008. He was set free three months later.

Though Hamdan was released from US custody, legal rights activists continued to contest his innocence. The latest court decision was a ruling in their favor.

dr/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)