The alleged architect of the USS Cole bombing wants to stay overnight at the war court compound during hearings because, his lawyer says, the commute from his clandestine prison makes him sick.
“The transportation to and from Camp 7 is stressful,” attorney Rick Kammen, the death penalty defender for accused terrorist Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, told reporters. He called the trip traumatic for the Saudi in a written brief because of Nashiri’s “untreated Complex PTSD” — Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It causes him to vomit, the lawyer wrote.
Nashiri, 51, is accused of orchestrating al-Qaida’s Oct. 12, 2000, suicide attack on the destroyer USS Cole at Aden, Yemen, that killed 17 sailors. He was held for four years in secret CIA prisons, including at Guantánamo, before President George W. Bush ordered his 2006 transfer to the U.S. military for trial by military tribunal.
The trial judge, Air Force Col. Vance Spath has listed the request on the agenda of this week’s pretrial session. The judge has yet to decide Kammen’s request to take testimony on the topic from the alleged terrorist, a senior prison medical official and the detention center commander, Navy Rear Adm. Peter Clarke.
Prosecutors in the death-penalty case oppose the request and want the judge to reject it without testimony or evidence. They accuse Nashiri’s lawyers of trying to “rummage through the security protocols” of the prison, “a well-maintained and safe facility.”
No date has been set to start the tribunal, although chief prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins said he has provided defense lawyers or the judge all of the evidence prosecutors believe Nashiri or his lawyers are entitled to see. Now the judge is evaluating proposed prosecution substitutions of classified material.
When not in court, Nashiri is kept in a nearby steel cell at the Expeditionary Legal Complex, a barbed-wire-topped fenced-in compound masked by green fabric to make it impossible to see inside from the rest of Camp Justice. Outside “the wire,” as it called, some lawyers and court staff sleep in an adjacent trailer park and reporters bivouac in a crude tent city.
Guards have consistently delivered Nashiri to court the morning of each session and returned him to the secret Camp 7 each night.
In their request, Nashiri’s lawyers invoke expert testimony that the Saudi was sexually, physically and mentally tortured in his years of CIA custody, as well as a military medical diagnosis of PTSD to explain why the trip is traumatic. Declassified reports show Nashiri was interrogated with waterboarding, a revving power drill and threats to his mother.
The agency also subjected him to “rectal re-feeding” for going on a hunger strike — a tactic his lawyer has called tantamount to rape.
“When the American public knows the full scope of the torture, they will be absolutely shocked,” Kammen said on the eve of the hearing due to start Monday afternoon. “They will be appalled.”
For the trip to court, his lawyers wrote, Guantánamo medical staff provide him with anti-nausea medicine that makes him sleepy in court and leaves him afterward less clear-headed to participate meaningfully in his defense.