WAR COURT

Alleged USS Cole bomber apologizes for delay, calls Guantánamo court ‘strange’

 

About Abd al Rahim al Nashiri:

Born: Jan. 5, 1965 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Captured: October 2002 in United Arab Emirates.

Arrived Guantánamo: September 2006 after years in secret CIA prisons.

Profession: Told a 2007 military review that he was a merchant in Mecca who by 19 was a millionaire. CIA profile released by the White House in 2006 said he was al-Qaida‘s operations chief in Arabian Peninsula at time of his capture.

Paramilitary background: CIA profile said he fought in Chechnya and Tajikistan and trained at the Khaldan camp in Afghanistan in 1992.

ABOUT THE USS COLE

The 8,300-ton warship is based in Norfolk, Va. It was commissioned, a formal ceremony, at Port Everglades in 1996.

The ship is named for Marine Sgt. Darrell S. Cole, a bugler turned machine-gunner, who was killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

It was on a refueling stop in October 2000 when two al-Qaida suicide bombers drove a bomb-laden ship into the side, killing themselves and ultimately claiming the lives of 17 Americans. They were:

Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, 21, of Mechanicsville, Va.

Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, 35, of Morrisville, Pa.

Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, 19, of Woodleaf, N.C.

Information Systems Technician Timothy Lee Gauna, 21, of Rice, Texas.

Signalman Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn, 22, of Rex, Ga.

Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, 19, of Norfolk, Va.

Engineman 2nd Class Marc Ian Nieto, 24, of Fond du Lac, Wis.

Electronics Warfare Technician 2nd Class Ronald Scott Owens, 24, of Vero Beach.

Seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer, 22, of San Diego.

Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, 19, of Churchville, Md.

Fireman Patrick Howard Roy, 19, of Keedysville, Md.

Electronics Warfare Technician 1st Class Kevin Shawn Rux, 30, of Portland, N.D.

Mess Management Specialist 3rd Class Ronchester Manangan Santiago, 22, Kingsville, Texas.

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, 32, of Ringgold, Va.

Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., 26, of Rockport, Texas

Ensign Andrew Triplett, 31, of Macon, Miss.

Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Md.

ABOUT THE TRIAL

Arraigned: Nov. 10, 2011.

Prosecution: Navy Cmdr Andrea Lockhart, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, Pentagon civilian Justin Sher, Navy Lt. Bryan Davis, Army Maj Evan Seamone, Navy Lt. Paul Morris.

Defense: Rick Kammen, learned counsel; Navy Cmdr. Brian Mizer; Air Force Maj. Alison Danels; Army Maj. Thomas Hurley.

Proposed trial date: Sept. 2, 2014.


crosenberg@MiamiHerald.com

The accused architect of al-Qaida’s USS Cole bombing kept his Pentagon-paid defense team on Wednesday, allowing his attorneys to begin arguing for dismissal of the prosecution that seeks his execution.

Saudi prisoner Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 49, apologized for the two-day delay. He said he had doubts his lawyers could help him in the case that calls him the mastermind of the October 2000 suicide bombing off Yemen that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

“I believe we are here in a unique and very strange court,” Nashiri told the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, through an interpreter. He was soft-spoken, unshackled and wore the white prison camp uniform of a well-behaved captive.

He complained that he had no Arabic-speaking attorney, that two members of his lawyers were absent and that his lawyers go to secret pretrial hearings and are forbidden to tell him “what happened during those closed, classified sessions.”

The judge noted that those were structural aspects of the war court his defense team had challenged and lost through legal motions.

Many of the almost 40 motions on the hearing agenda seek to dismiss some or all of the charges against Nashiri, who was brought to Guantánamo in September 2006 after years in secret CIA lockups where agents waterboarded and interrogated him with other now-banned techniques.

Army Maj. Thomas Hurley, on the defense team, argued that President George W. Bush’s remarks years ago that called Nashiri the Cole bomber prejudiced the case. He asked Pohl to dismiss the charges or make life in prison the maximum possible punishment at trial.

Navy Lt. Bryan Davis, a prosecutor, said Bush was not trying to contaminate any future trial, but was speaking to the nation during “an ongoing war against terror.” By the time Nashiri was charged, on Oct. 26, 2011, he said, Pentagon statements used the word “alleged.”

Davis invoked the precedent of Lt. William Calley’s 1970s court-martial for the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War — and said any pretrial publicity could be addressed during the selection of Nashiri’s tribunal of U.S. military officers.

Sunday, the chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, defended closed court sessions as a balancing act of safeguarding national security “while ensuring that each accused has a meaningful opportunity to challenge the government’s case and that the administration of justice functions in the open.”

In June, the judge closed the court to hear attorneys argue about a government motion so secret it has no name on the Pentagon’s public war court docket. A subsequent, partially released transcript showed the closed hearing included a prosecution admission that the CIA found previously undisclosed photos of Nashiri. Defense lawyers want the photos.

Martins rejected characterizations of the opened-closed nature of the proceedings as “a lazy ‘military commissions pick and choose transparency’ narrative.” Less than 2 percent of Nashiri’s hearings were closed, he said, and “done consistent with our values and in accordance with the rule of law.”

Nashiri could next return to court Friday. The judge closed Thursday’s session to hash out with the lawyers what portions of these hearings could be heard by the accused and the public.

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

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