Judge: Accused USS Cole attack plotter gets adequate health care at Guantánamo

Saudi Abd al Rahim al Nashiri during his military commissions arraignment at the Guantánamo Nov. 9, 2011.
Saudi Abd al Rahim al Nashiri during his military commissions arraignment at the Guantánamo Nov. 9, 2011. ASSOCIATED PRESS

In the absence of proof otherwise, Guantánamo prison provides adequate health care to the accused mastermind of the USS Cole bombing as he awaits his death-penalty tribunal, a military judge ruled Monday.

Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 50, who according to a recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report was subjected to “rectal feeding” during a hunger strike and was also waterboarded in CIA custody, suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.

Last year, defense lawyers called a series of witnesses, when a different judge was hearing the case, to try to get the court to order what they called “adequate health care.” In one instance, an expert on torture testified in both open and closed session about Nashiri’s physical, emotional and sexual torture in CIA custody.

But Air Force Col. Vance Spath, the judge, said he has not observed that Nashiri’s health conditions had adversely impacted his ability to take part in pretrial proceedings. Moreover, Spath said, defense lawyers had not shown through witnesses or court arguments that prison management demonstrated “deliberate indifference” to the Saudi’s health care.

“The unsupported assertions of the Defense that the care given amounts to malpractice, is thus unpersuasive and not what is required under the law,” Spath ruled in his four-page decision, dated March 24 but released Monday.

Nashiri is accused of orchestrating al-Qaida’s Oct. 12, 2000 suicide bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer off Aden, Yemen. Seventeen American sailors were killed in the blast, and dozens more were wounded.

A court-ordered examination by a Navy medical board concluded in 2013 that the former CIA captive suffered the PTSD and depression at Guantánamo.

The torture expert, Dr. Sondra Crosby, recommended that, as a form of treatment, Nashiri be allowed to speak with his elderly parents — something he had been forbidden since his capture in 2002. Nashiri’s lawyers asked the judge to specifically order he get Skype-style video chats, like low-value Guantánamo detainees.

The prison launched a modified video chat program earlier this year for Nashiri and other former CIA captives, before the judge needed to decide on that portion of it.

The ruling released Monday, was the latest pretrial motion decided against Nashiri. Last week, the war court judge ruled that the Pentagon does not have to disclose what method it would use to execute Nashiri, if he is convicted, in order to use the information in selection of a jury of U.S. military officers who will sit on his tribunal.

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