America

Suspect In USS Cole Bombing Wins One Legal Battle

The man accused of masterminding the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, won a key battle at Guantanamo on Wednesday — a judge said he could meet with his lawyers without having to wear restraints.

The ruling might seem like a small thing, but the judge's decision allows the government to avoid possibly having some things discussed in open court that it doesn't want revealed. Al-Nashiri's defense team had planned to put him on the stand to testify about why he feels the shackles are such a problem. Before he came to Guantanamo, Al-Nashiri had been held in CIA black sites for four years. He is one of three men the U.S. has admitted it waterboarded. Al-Nashiri, a 47-year-old Saudi, says being shackled is traumatic today because he was restrained in the same way when he was in CIA custody years ago.

Al-Nashiri, pictured in 2002, is being held at the Naval base in Guantanamo Bay. i i

hide captionAl-Nashiri, pictured in 2002, is being held at the Naval base in Guantanamo Bay.

Reuters/Landov
Al-Nashiri, pictured in 2002, is being held at the Naval base in Guantanamo Bay.

Al-Nashiri, pictured in 2002, is being held at the Naval base in Guantanamo Bay.

Reuters/Landov

The mere possibility of al-Nashiri's testimony set off a maelstrom. The prosecution immediately demanded that the testimony be heard in secret because he could reveal classified information. Critics of the military commissions system said a closed session flew in the face of the transparency and openness the leaders of the commissions had promised when they reformed the system. A lawyer representing a roster of news organizations, including NPR, discussed the importance of keeping the proceedings open with the presiding judge.

In the end, the judge's ruling has made all the to-ing and fro-ing moot — for now. Al-Nashiri's first hand account of CIA interrogations will have to wait for another day. Because his treatment by the CIA is a centerpiece of his trial at Guantanamo, the subject is bound to come up again.

As we reported Wednesday, Al-Nashiri's actual trial doesn't start until November.

[Dina Temple-Raston is an NPR counterterrorism correspondent.)

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: