Accused planner of attack on USS Cole shuns Guantánamo court session

McClatchy NewspapersJuly 19, 2012 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — The accused architect of al-Qaida’s USS Cole bombing skipped arguments in his war crimes case Thursday, a day after both the public and the accused were excluded from a hearing that discussed CIA intelligence.

All defense counsel Richard Kammen would say was that Saudi national Abd al Rahim al Nashiri “voluntarily chose not to attend.” So guards did not move him from his cell at the prison several miles away to the court at Camp Justice.

In all his earlier hearings, the man who was once waterboarded by CIA agents showed up and watched the proceedings wearing the white prison camp garb of a cooperative captive. But there was no explanation for his absence this time. Kammen said he was barred from elaborating by the intelligence agencies’ security rules governing the “presumptive classification” of anything an ex-CIA captive says.

Instead, the defendant’s chair sat empty as the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, heard Nashiri’s lawyers argue to get the case dismissed, and if not get the eventual death-penalty trial available for live television broadcasts. Pohl did not rule on any of the motions.

The judge did however start the day by announcing that at the closed hearing a day earlier it was decided to postpone until next time — Oct. 23-25 — arguments on two secret defense motions that seek some sort of information about Nashiri’s overseas capture and detention. But the motions are under seal, and the judge said that he had the authority to close Wednesday’s hearing without elaborating on the open-court record.

“No finding justifying closure was required,” he said.

Nashiri spent four years in the CIA’s secret overseas prison network before his transfer to military custody in Guantánamo in 2006. According to declassified investigations, U.S. agents interrogated him at gunpoint, with a revving power drill to his head and while hooded — techniques his defense team considers torture.

Attorneys for 14 media organizations objected to closure of discussions of those motions, arguing the public has a keen interest in Guantánamo’s first death-penalty tribunal.

With this week’s hearing over, the Guantánamo war crimes court went dark for the month of Ramadan. Muslims were to begin fasting by day Friday in observance of Islam’s holy month, and end days before resumption of hearings in the 9/11 terror case on Aug.22.

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