News / USA

USS Cole Bombing Suspect Faces Arraignment at Guantanamo

Meredith Buel

A Saudi Arabian man accused of being the mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday, Nov. 9 before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay.  Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri could face the death penalty if convicted.

The suicide attack on the U.S. naval vessel in Yemen’s Port of Aden left a gaping hole in the side of the ship, killing 17 sailors and wounding dozens of others.

"Bringing to justice the perpetrators of the October 12, 2000 attack is a vital part of our counterterrorism mission and we will dedicate whatever resources are needed to get the job done," said FBI director Robert Muller.  

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was captured in 2002, held in secret CIA prisons overseas, and transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006. He is one of 15 high-value detainees held at Guantanamo and is the first to face a military tribunal since U.S. President Barack Obama lifted a freeze on such trials earlier this year.

“I would just tell you we are training, we are ready," said Colonel Donnie Thomas, who is in charge of security at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. "We have held commissions before and this will be another commission with a little bit more spotlight to it and so we are prepared for that.”

Nashiri is charged with murder, terrorism and conspiracy and could face the death penalty.   Nashiri’s attorneys argue he should not be tried because he was subject to the near-drowning technique called waterboarding and mock executions.

Attorney Eugene Fidell is a lecturer on military law at Yale University, and has long criticized the Guantanamo process.

“It is a bad thing to be conducting these trials at Guantanamo," he said.  "They should be conducted - if we have people who have committed federal crimes they should be tried in a proper federal court.”

But Congress has blocked attempts to bring Guantanamo detainees for trial in the U.S. and efforts to close the detention center have failed so far.

After Nashiri’s arraignment a military judge is expected to set the schedule for the trial.

Military law expert Cully Stimson of the Heritage Foundation says the process could take a long time.

“I think a year or two or more delay for defense to get ready for trial is not unreasonable and I would not be surprised if a military judge grants them all the time they need,” he said.

The case will be heard at Guantanamo’s Camp Justice in a courtroom so secure no photographs are allowed even outside the building.

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