Guantanamo prisoner faces charges in bombing of U.S. destroyer Cole
The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it has filed capital charges against a Saudi prisoner at Guantanamo Bay for his alleged role in plotting and orchestrating the 2000 terrorist attack on the Navy destroyer Cole as it refueled in a Yemeni harbor.
Abd al Rahim al Nashiri was one of 14 so-called high-value detainees moved from secret CIA-run interrogation sites in 2006 to the military detention facility on the U.S. Naval base in southern Cuba.
Nashiri is accused of choreographing the Cole attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors when suicide bombers rammed the destroyer with an explosives-laden motor boat. He was arrested in Dubai in 2002 and held for four years in an undisclosed location where, according to CIA documents, he was subjected to harsh interrogation tactics, including mock firing of a handgun at his temple and threatening him with a power drill.
Capital charges initially filed against the Saudi of Yemeni descent were dropped after government admissions that he had been subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques," including the simulated drowning exercise known as waterboarding. The practice has been widely condemned by human rights activists as torture and forbidden under new detention and interrogation regulations drafted two years ago.
Previously unsealed intelligence documents allege that Nashiri supervised several terrorist plots against Western military targets on behalf of Al Qaeda and its late mastermind, Osama bin Laden.
The Pentagon's terse announcement that it had "referred" charges against Nashiri to a military commission for trial at the high-security naval base didn't address concerns that some of the evidence military prosecutors hope to use against the defendant may be inadmissible under the new tribunal regulations if deemed the product of torture.
Nashiri is the only Guantanamo prisoner facing a potential death sentence other than the five suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks alleged to have been planned and carried out under Al Qaeda kingpin Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Nashiri is to be arraigned at Guantanamo within 30 days of the delivery of charges to him, the Pentagon statement said.
-- Carol J. Williams
Photo: A small boat guards the Navy destroyer Cole in Aden, Yemen, in October 2000, days after terrorists attacked the ship with a motor boat packed with explosives. Credit: Hasan Jamali / Associated Press