USS Cole defenders seek three-month delay


They also say the alleged mastermind of the bombing shouldn’t be compelled to come to court proceedings against his wishes

Defense lawyers in the USS Cole bombing case are asking a military judge to delay by three months their next Guantánamo hearing, to give torture experts time to examine the alleged mastermind who was waterboarded by the CIA.

Lawyers for the Saudi-born accused, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 47, sought the continuance in a filing Tuesday at the war court. The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, gave prosecutors until Oct. 3 to respond to postponing the next hearing in the death-penalty case until late January.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes, Nashiri’s lawyer, said the Pentagon was still issuing security clearances for two approved case experts — a psychologist and an internist who specializes in examining torture victims. They won’t have enough time to properly examine the accused before the Oct. 23-25 hearing at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, he said.

During that hearing, the judge is to hear a prosecution argument that Nashiri should be forcibly brought to court if he refuses to come voluntarily.

CIA agents interrogated Nashiri at gunpoint as well as waterboarded him before transferring him to Guantánamo in 2006. His lawyers argue that a prison camp policy of tackling and shackling non-compliant captives would be traumatic for the captive and harm their ability to work with him because it would remind him of his torture.

The defenders say Nashiri should be allowed to voluntarily stay in his cell, which he did during a hearing in July. The prosecutors say the accused war criminal does not get to decide. The judge has said he is reluctant to interfere in an evolving prison camp policy, which is to deliver an accused defendant to Camp Justice if he has a court date.

“A capital proceeding where the accused can sit just a short distance from the courthouse and be allowed to decide on his own caprice whether to attend on any particular day runs in direct contravention to the strongest of public interests in ensuring that justice, no matter the result, is seen to have been served for these charges,” prosecutors wrote the judge in July.

Neither the defense attorney’s motion for delay nor the judge’s deadline for a response were released to the public on Wednesday.

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

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