Judge halts Guantanamo trial
Decision brings detention camp's cases into compliance with Obama's executive order.
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2009 07:28 GMT
Al-Qaeda claimed it carried out the bombing of the USS Cole, that left 17 US sailors dead [AP]

The judge overseeing the war crimes tribunal at Guantanamo has halted the trial of a Saudi al-Qaeda suspect accused of plotting the bombing of a US navy ship.

The decision to drop the charges of bombing the USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 US sailors in 2000, was announced by the Pentagon on Friday.

Retired judge Susan Crawford, who oversees the commissions, dismissed the charges against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri without prejudice, which means he will remain in prison for the time being and could be recharged at a later date.

Navy Commander JD Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said: "It was [Judge Susan Crawford's] decision, and it reflects the fact that the president [US president Barack Obama] has issued an executive order which mandates that the military commissions be halted, pending the outcome of several comprehensive reviews of our detention operations at Guantanamo."

The charges against al-Nashiri marked the last active Guantanamo military tribunal, bringing all cases into compliance with Obama's January 22 executive order to halt  court proceedings at the detention centre in Cuba.

The hearing had been set for Monday.

Death penalty

Last year the Bush administration charged al-Nashiri with "organising and directing" the bombing and planned to seek the death penalty in the case.

"We have already waited eight years. Justice delayed is justice denied. We must allow the military commission process to go forward"

Retired Navy Cmdr Kirk S. Lippold, commanding officer of the USS Cole

Al-Nashiri said he confessed to helping plot the USS Cole bombing only because he was tortured by US interrogators.

The CIA has admitted he was among terrorist suspects subjected to waterboarding, which simulates drowning while being interrogated in secret CIA prisons.

Obama met the families of victims of the USS Cole bombing as well as the September 11, 2001, attacks, on Friday to discuss his plans regarding Guantanamo. Some families of victims have opposed his decision.

"I was certainly disappointed with the decision to delay the military commissions process," Retired Navy Commander Kirk S. Lippold, the commanding officer of the Cole when it was bombed in Yemen in 2000, said.

"We have already waited eight years. Justice delayed is justice denied. We must allow the military commission process to go forward."

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