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Wednesday
Nov092011

Alleged USS Cole Attack Mastermind Faces Military Commission

John Moore/Getty Images(GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba) -- Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, was arraigned at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wednesday, marking the first time he has ever been seen in public since his capture in 2002.

Al Nashiri did not enter a plea on the charges presented against him at Wednesday’s hearing.

His case is the first to proceed since the Obama administration decided to resume the military commissions process following changes made under the 2009 Military Commissions Act.  If convicted for planning of the attack on the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, al Nashiri could face the death penalty.

Al Nashiri chose to wear the white prison uniform issued to Guantanamo detainees at Wednesday’s hearing and sported a short haircut and a stubbly five o’clock shadow. The 46-year-old appeared bulkier than the only known picture of him that shows a younger al Nashiri wearing an Arabic headdress. 

Al Nashiri was engaged throughout the hearing and often responded with smiles to frequent questions about whether he understood how the case would proceed. 

As the hearing began, Col. James C. Pohl,  the presiding judge in the case, asked al Nashiri if he spoke English. Al Nashiri replied in English, “I do not speak English.”  

When asked if he would need an interpreter for the proceedings, he again replied in English with a confused smile, “Of course, yes.”

Asked if he was comfortable with the attorneys working with him, he said through an interpreter, “At this moment, these lawyers are doing the right job.”

Reporters sitting inside the courtroom at Guantanamo reported that al Nashiri waved his hand as he entered the courtroom, though that was not visible to reporters watching a closed-circuit feed of the proceedings at Fort Meade, Md.

Al Nashiri’s lead defense attorney, Richard  Kammen, said later that he could not speak directly about a hand wave, but said al Nashiri was “glad to be in the process,” noting he has been kept in tight quarters since his 2002 detention.

Seven family members of the 17 sailors killed in the waterborne attack on the USS Cole traveled to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo to be on hand for Wednesday’s arraignment.  They sat in a special glassed-in section in the back of the courtroom.

Al Nashiri has been detained at Guantanamo since September 2006, when he was transferred from CIA custody. Captured in 2002, al Nashiri had been held in one of the CIA’s secret prisons and was one of three al Qaeda detainees to have ever been waterboarded.

Al Nashiri’s next court appearance will be in mid-January for a procedural hearing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio