A U.S. military judge at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has rejected President Barack Obama's request to suspend a hearing for the alleged mastermind of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

Judge James Pohl denied a motion to suspend for 120 days the trial of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi citizen of Yemeni descent. He was quoted as saying the decision was necessary to protect "the public interest in a speedy trial."

The Defense Department said it was reviewing the ruling. Reports say the judge's decision could force the Pentagon to withdraw the charges against al-Nashiri, although they could be refiled later.

The CIA has admitted interrogators used harsh techniques on him, and al-Nashiri says he confessed to involvement in the Cole attack to get them to stop.

Al-Nashiri is accused of working with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to organize and carry out the attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

The decision concerning al-Nashiri comes a week after President Obama signed an executive order to close the controversial Guantanamo facility within one year. He also ordered a review of all 245 detainees at the center to decide how to prosecute those who may have committed crimes.

Al-Nashiri was earlier held in secret CIA prisons. The CIA says he was subjected to simulated drowning known as "waterboarding," which the U.S. has considered torture in the past. The practice was stopped in 2006.