Alexandra Kutner is currently at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to observe proceedings in the al Nashiri case on behalf of the Center for Policy and Research.
Clean shaven Saudi detainee Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, accused of being the architect of the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen, merely swiveled in his chair during his seven-minute stay in court. Al Nahsiri’s learned counsel, Rick Kammen, spoke on his behalf, explaining to the court that Nashiri had lost confidence in him and wanted him removed from the case. In hopes of preserving their relationship, Kammen requested two days to attempt to reconcile the relationship. Judge Pohl agreed to grant Kammen time to speak with al Nashiri and recessed until Wednesday. If the two cannot repair their relationship, al Nashiri is ultimately allowed to fire Kammen under current military commission rules.
Today was the first military commission session of the year, and the start of eight days of hearings. The prosecution, fearing this was merely a tactic to prolong the proceedings, requested that the lost time be made up on Saturday and Sunday. The prosecution’s frustration was echoed by the family members of the USS Cole victims as they looked on through the galley, yet again disappointed by lackluster results. As of yet, no final decision has been made by Judge Pohl.
Should al Nashiri be found guilty, he would most likely face the death penalty. Military commission rules require that an accused detainee facing a death penalty must have a learned defense counsel (an attorney with experience in death penalty cases) on his defense team. Al Nashiri has become frustrated with the military and his inability to designate Nancy Hollander or Ahmad Assed as his counsel. Assed’s application for appointment in the al Nashiri case has been pending for two years.
Only time will tell whether al Nashiri’s proceedings will be coming to a complete halt. Regardless, Nashiri’s case would have recessed on Thursday for the arraignment of Ahmed al Darbi. Darbi faces charges related to the bombing of the Limburg, a French oil tanker, off the coast in Yemen in 2002.
Alexandra Kutner, Research Fellow
Center for Policy and Research