WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2008 -- Convicted Guantanamo detainee Salim Hamdan will soon be extradited to his home country of Yemen to serve out the remainder of the five-month term imposed by a military commission this summer for his material support of terrorism, ABC News has learned.
At year's end, when his sentence is over, it will be up to Yemen to decide what, if any, restrictions on his freedom will be imposed, a senior defense official told ABC News.
The man, once alleged to be a driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, was convicted by a military panel in August and given a five-and-a-half-year sentence, much less than the 30-year sentence that military prosecutors had been seeking.
The military judge in the case then decided that Hamdan should receive credit for the five years and one month he had already served as a detainee. That reduced his sentence to five months.
At the time he was sentenced, Pentagon officials said Hamdan would likely return to the detainee population at Guantanamo for indefinite detention because another military panel had already determined him to be an enemy combatant.
Privately, they expressed disappointment that the court had granted such a lenient sentence.
Hamdan is eligible for release at the end of December.
His lawyer said he was happy that Hamdan will get his wish to return to Yemen, where his wife and children live.
"Today marks seven years to the day of Hamdan's capture," said Charles Swift, who began representing Hamdan as a member of the Judge Advocates General Corp, but is now in private practice. "If reports prove to be true, I'm elated for Mr. Hamdan and not surprised by our government's decision. And the reason I say I'm not surprised is that I would hate to be so cynical as to be surprised when our government does the right thing. "
He said that for Hamdan, being away from his family "has been more torture than anything else. "
"We had no clue that they were going to release him, but there was an indication that there was a debate within government about doing so," Swift said. "It's a good day for me, and it's a good day for Salim too."
Hamdan's attorneys had successfully argued his case through the civilian courts, culminating in a 2006 Supreme Court decision that ruled that the Bush administration did not have the authority to set up military commissions without congressional authority, and that they did not comply with parts of the military's Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention.
The High Court's decision led Congress to pass the Military Commissions Act, which set new ground rules for trials of enemy combatants held at Guantanamo.
ABC News' Ariane DeVogue contributed to this report.