USS Cole defendant faces death penalty

3 Oct


By: Malak Shaher,Yemen Times 
Sana’a, Oct. 2 – After spending nine years in CIA custody, the death penalty case of a defendant connected with the bombing of the USS Cole was referred to trial by military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba by a senior Pentagon official.

The defendant is Abdu Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, a Saudi citizen of Yemeni descent who was captured in 2002 for his role in the bombing of the USS Cole. The US navy destroyer was stationed in the Gulf of Aden in October 2000 when it was attacked, leaving 17 American soldiers dead.  

Al-Nashiri was charged by US military prosecutors in April 2011 with murder, terrorism and other violations of internationally-sanctioned laws of war.  

Despite the gravity of the charges Al-Nashiri faced, his attorneys argued that no case should be brought against him as he was tortured while in CIA custody. They argued that the government cannot use any statements obtained from a defendant while under such duress.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes, one of Al-Nashiri’s attorneys, said after the case was referred to trial that he intended to call to the stand CIA officials involved in his client’s interrogation.

Al- Nashiri said in 2007 at a closed military hearing that he confessed to involvement in the bombing of the US Cole in part because he was tortured.

The European Parliamentary Assembly has released a declaration signed by 28 of its members in which they call on the United States “not to subject Guantanamo prisoner Al-Nashiri to death penalty observing that his trial by a military commission would not meet international fair trial standards”.

The declaration mentioned that Al-Nashiri was held incommunicado in a secret CIA prison in Poland in 2002 and 2003, where he was tortured before being transferred from Poland. He was later detained for some time between 2003 and 2006 at a secret CIA prison in Bucharest, Romania.


Al-Nashiri’s Confessions

According to a report published in Arabic on NewsYemen’s website regarding Al-Nashiri’s confessions, he stated that he was recruited by Osama Bin Laden to partcipate in the USS Cole operation.

Before Al-Nashiri became part of Al-Qaeda, Al-Nashiri also stated that he joined a group of 30 jihadists in Tajikistan in 1996. But, according to the report, he did not participate in any “serious battles” with  security forces there.

He mentioned in his confession that he and his group attended a sermon given by Osama Bin Laden in which the latter spoke about the importance of “Jihad against the Americans” before inviting the group to join Al-Qaeda – at which point Al-Nashiri refused.

Still according to Al-Nashiri’s confessions, after he visited relatives in Yemen in 1997, he saw  “American and foreign ships sailing” in the southeast area of the Gulf of Aden. He said that the idea of bombing attacks “sprung” to his mind.

The NewsYemen report mentioned that Al-Nashiri joined Al-Qaeda in 1998. He was told by Bin Laden to first carry out the bombing operation on the west coast of Yemen. Al-Nashiri, however, did not find any “American ship” there. In turn, Bin Laden suggested that Al-Nashiri perform the operation on the coast of Aden.

The first operation was against the American Ship The Sullivans in January 2000, but it failed. Al-Nashiri said in his confession that he wanted simply to bomb an oil carrier, but that Bin Laden insisted that the target should be an American ship.


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