USA: GUANTANAMO JUDGE SETTING USS COLE BOMBING TRIAL FOR 2018
March 18, 2017:
Air Force Col. Vance Spath, the judge in the USS Cole bombing case, said he would set a 2018 trial date for the death-penalty case. (Source: Miami Herald, military.com, 18/03/2017)
Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 52, is accused of plotting al-Qaida's Oct. 12, 2000, suicide attack against the U.S. Navy warship off Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed and dozens more were wounded. Nashiri was captured in Dubai in November 2002 and held for four years in secret CIA prisons known as "black sites" in Afghanistan, Thailand, Poland, Morocco, and Romania, before being transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Defense attorney Rick Kammen announced a coming legal motion. It will accuse the prosecution of failing to provide certain material about the secret CIA prison network where Nashiri was interrogated and held for four years. He added that his defense team had filed a petition in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the legality of Nashiri's trial at Guantanamo. Dr. Sondra Crosby, an expert on the medical and psychological effects of torture, wrote in October 2015 that Nashiri is “one of the most damaged victims of torture” she has ever examined."
The heavily redacted descriptions of torture contained in Nashiri's petition are based on a prosecution timeline of his time at black sites, a gradual collection of declassified information, and recently published memoirs by a former CIA contract psychologist. All of the interrogation practices are also documented in the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's controversial 2014 report, known as “The Torture Report.” The judge is determined to start jury selection, trial in 2018. The judge said it would "take months to seat a jury" of 12 members plus alternates.
Nashiri's case presents a range of important factual, legal, and evidentiary issues, but without Supreme Court intervention, he will not have any legal mechanism to obtain appellate review of them prior to trial.
Although Nashiri is considered one of Guantánamo’s 15 most “high-value” prisoners, detained in a secret location in a special jail known as "Camp Seven," his lawyers argue he is actually an intellectually limited al-Qaeda foot soldier, not a criminal mastermind. In a federal civilian court, evidence obtained as a result of the torture to which the CIA admits Nashiri was subjected would be inadmissible; but in a military tribunal, there are questions whether that evidence may be admitted and whether the fact and extent of his torture may be used as evidence in his defense.
In addition, Nashiri's case involves potentially sensitive national security matters and CIA videotapes of some of Nashiri's interrogations may have been destroyed, leaving questions both as to what information the government may withhold and what sanctions, if any, there should be for evidence it may have destroyed.