Nashiri Reserves Plea in USS Cole Bombing Case

U.S. NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Nov. 9, 2011 — The man accused of plan­ning and prepar­ing the USS Cole bomb­ing and oth­er attacks did not enter a plea dur­ing arraign­ment here today.

Abd al Rahim Hus­sein Muhammed al Nashiri, 46, 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 civil­ians; attack­ing civil­ian objects; and haz­ard­ing a ves­sel.

The charges arise out of an attempt­ed attack on the USS The Sul­li­vans in Jan­u­ary 2000; an attack on the USS Cole in Octo­ber 2000, dur­ing which 17 U.S. sailors were killed and 37 more wound­ed; and an attack on the MV Lim­burg, a French civil­ian oil tanker, in Octo­ber 2002, dur­ing which one crewmem­ber was killed and about 90,000 bar­rels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Aden. If con­vict­ed, Nashiri could be sen­tenced to death.

A trans­la­tor inter­pret­ed today’s court pro­ceed­ings for the Sau­di Ara­bi­an-born Nashiri. The chief judge, Army Col. James L. Cohl, explained to Nashiri his rights to coun­sel, includ­ing his right under the Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sions Act of 2009 to coun­sel expe­ri­enced in death penal­ty cas­es.

Nashiri chose to appear today in his prison uni­form, although Cohl advised him that he has the right to appear in civil­ian cloth­ing, if he choos­es, for future pro­ceed­ings.

Richard Kam­men, lead defense coun­sel, said Nashiri request­ed that Cohl sum­ma­rize for the court what he had read about the case.

The judge said his essen­tial knowl­edge oth­er than media reports of the Cole bomb­ing came from the charge sheets, and that he pre­sumes Nashiri is inno­cent unless proven guilty beyond a rea­son­able doubt.

Nashiri is the first “high-val­ue detainee” for­mer­ly held by the CIA to appear in a mil­i­tary com­mis­sion case, and he is the first accused per­son to face a pos­si­ble death penal­ty in a mil­i­tary com­mis­sion case.

Kam­men entered a motion ask­ing that the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment acknowl­edge “in the event Mis­ter al Nashiri is acquit­ted … he will con­tin­ue to be held here.”

Antho­ny Mat­tivi, a mem­ber of the pros­e­cu­tion team rep­re­sent­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment, said dis­cus­sion of Nashiri’s pos­si­ble post-acquit­tal deten­tion is “unripe pre­lim­i­nary argu­ment.”

“There is sub­stan­tial, mean­ing­ful work to be done before this com­mis­sion,” Mat­tivi added.

Fol­low­ing today’s arraign­ment, a tri­al date will be set. The Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sions Act of 2009 directs that tri­als begin with­in 120 days of an accused receiv­ing charges. Nashiri was charged Sept. 30.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)