The alleged Saudi Arabian Al Qaeda terrorist who masterminded the 2000 bombing attack on the American Navy ship USS Cole in Beirut has finally been arraigned.
Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 46, faced a military judge at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba after nearly 10 years in secret CIA prisons. He was kept in a section of the base considered so sensitive that even its location within the base is classified.
Nashri is being charged with murder in war, a federal capital crime that merits the death penalty in the United States. He is accused of recruiting and training Al Qaeda terrorists on behalf of the group's founder and leader, Osama Bin Laden, for the attack. The terrorist organization has continued to be active in Yemen -- where it is engaged in a struggle for power that is being expressed through opposition tribal warfare against the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and in various clashes elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula.
An explosives-laden boat was used by the terrorist cell that blew up the USS Cole, murdering 17 US sailors and wounding 37 others. Nashri is also accused of masterminding the October 2002 bombing of the French supertanker MV Limburg. One crewman died in that blast. The Saudi terrorist was captured in Dubai later that year and jailed in the Guantanamo Bay prison by September 2006.
But his trial is not expected to begin for months, if not years, due to the expected legal battle over which evidence can be used in the case.
Nashri's lawyers argue that a legitimate trial is impossible since he was subjected to intensive interrogations and various torture techniques such as waterboarding at sites overseas.
“By torturing Mr. al-Nashiri and subjecting him to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the United States has foreited its right to try him and certainly to kill him,” the defense team wrote in one of its briefs. “Through the infliction of physical and psychological abuse the government has essentially already killed a man it seized almost 10 years ago.”
U.S. Army Brig.-Gen. Mark Martins, the new chief prosecutor, has said that only statements given voluntarily can be used against defendants in military trials. Only a narrow exception can be made for things they said at the time of their capture, he said.
“No statement obtained as a result of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is admissible,” Martins was quoted as saying by the Huffington Post. “I'm bound by that. That's not just something the court is bound by. I will not seek, nor will prosecutors who work for me seek to introduce statements of that character.”
A member of Nashiri's defense team, Rick Kammen, told reporters that anything told to interrogators after nearly four years of CIA detention should be considered questionable.
“The way to think of it is this,” the terrorist's attorney said. “People who have been subjected to serious trauma, the trauma doesn't end at the time the event is over.”