|Mark Martins, the US military’s chief prosecutor, has ruled out using evidence obtained through”cruel treatment” [EPA]|
The main suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole warship is to appear before a judge after nearly a decade of confinement at various clandestine CIA prisons and Guantanamo Bay.
Saudi-born Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 46, faces the death penalty for allegedly planning and preparing the October 2000 attack on the US Navy destroyer in Yemen’s port of Aden that killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 more.
It will be the first public appearance in years for a “terror” suspect who has been essentially invisible since his 2002 capture in the Gulf and subsequent incarceration.
The trial will be the first since Barack Obama, the US president, approved the resumption of military trials for detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.
The move ends a two-year ban and was the latest acknowledgement that the prison Obama had vowed to shut down within a year of taking office will remain open for some time to come.
Nashiri is accused of murder, acts of terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and attacks against civilians.
“By torturing Mr Nashiri, the United States has lost all moral authority to try Mr Nashiri.”
Richard Kammen – Defence Lawyer
The Pentagon believes he bought the small boat and explosives used in the Cole attack.
Nashiri is also accused of involvement in a January 2000 attempted attack against another American warship in Aden, the USS The Sullivans, and a French oil tanker near Yemen.
Along with five men accused of orchestrating the attacks of September 11, 2001, Nashiri is among the “high-value detainees” held by the United States, and could be the first terror suspect sentenced to death by a military court under the Obama administration.
In 2004 a Yemeni court had charged Nashiri and five others for carrying out the attack.
US lost “all moral authority”
Nashiri’s lawyers are arguing a fair trial will be impossible, and the death penalty should be out of the question since he was subjected to intense interrogation that included mock executions, threats to his family and the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding while held at CIA “black sites” overseas.
A congressional investigation had also found that Nashiri was waterboarded while in custody, and that handlers loaded a gun and powered a drill near his head.
Nashiri’s defence team said that the US had lost “all moral authority” to try their client by torturing him in a secret prison.
|17 US sailors were killed in the attack in October 2000 [GALLO/GETTY]|
Mark Martins, the military commission’s chief prosecutor, said that “no statement obtained as a result of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” would be accepted as evidence.
Such claims of torture by the defence team could complicate the trial and revive debate over the efficacy of the anti-terror strategy of Obama’s predecessor, George W Bush.
Three trials have taken place at Guantanamo since Obama took office in January 2009 but those proceedings began under Bush.
In one of his first moves as president, Obama froze proceedings at the Guantanamo military tribunal as part of his ultimately ill-fated promise to close the facility in southeastern Cuba within a year of entering the White House.