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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Nashiri Reserves Plea in USS Cole Bombing Case

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

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.

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