Update: Tribunal Judge Orders Cole Suspect to Appear in Court
The judge in the case of the alleged mastermind of the October 2000 bombing of Navy warship USS Cole ordered the defendant to appear in court tomorrow morning after he failed to appear today for a motions hearing at the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Abd al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al-Nashiri told legal officials his absence was in protest of belly chains used to escort him to the courtroom.
His nonappearance set off a spirited debate on several motions between the defense team and the U.S. government counsel; however, his no-show status took up much of the morning’s session.
The judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, stopped court today at 11:30 a.m. until the defendant can appear in court tomorrow and hear his rights from the judge on the record. Pohl also ordered the government to allow the defense team to visit Nashiri today.
“There is no basis for his [absence] in court,” said prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, who argued that without Nashiri in the courtroom, the integrity of the trial could be at risk.
Pohl denied other motions in today’s session, including the admission of defense mental health experts who would have provided testimony on the effect of torture to which Nashiri alleges he was subjected.
In addition to the Cole bombing, Nashiri, an alleged al-Qaida member, is accused in connection with an attempted attack on the USS The Sullivans in January 2000 and an attack on the French oil tanker Limburg in October 2002.
Seventeen sailors died when the Cole was attacked, and 40 others were injured. The Cole was in Aden, Yemen, for a fuel stop when a small watercraft approached the ship’s port side and exploded.
Nashiri is charged with perfidy, or treachery; murder in violation of the law of war; attempted murder in violation of the law of war; terrorism; conspiracy; intentionally causing serious bodily injury; attacking civilian objects and hazarding a vessel.
U.S. officials allege Nashiri was under the supervision of Osama bin Laden, and that bin Laden personally approved the attack. If convicted, Nashiri could receive the death penalty.