U.S. Government Refers Charges Against USS Cole Suspect Al-Nashiri At Guantánamo

December 19, 2008

ACLU Calls Move An 11th Hour Stunt To Tie Obama's Hands

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CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba – In one of its final moves at the Guantánamo military commissions, the Bush administration referred charges in the capital case of detainee Abd al-Rahim Hussain Mohammed al-Nashiri, who is being charged for his alleged involvement in crimes including the USS Cole bombing. The American Civil Liberties Union is sponsoring civilian attorneys to represent al-Nashiri through its John Adams Project, a partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to supplement the under-resourced military defense teams that have been assigned to Guantánamo detainees.

"The timing of the referral of these charges is extremely suspect. What we are seeing is another 11th hour stunt from the Bush administration to tie the hands of the incoming president," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Just this week, the Defense Department announced it is making plans to shut down Guantánamo and end these sham military commissions. While President-elect Obama is planning to end eight years of shameful policies that allowed torture and violations of domestic and international law, the Bush administration is desperately trying to extend it." 

Now that Susan Crawford, the military commissions' convening authority, decided to "refer the charges" for prosecution, al-Nashiri is required to appear before the military commission within 30 days for an arraignment.

The military commissions allow convictions based on secret evidence, hearsay, and evidence derived from torture including waterboarding, a technique the government has acknowledged it used on al-Nashiri.

"This is the last gasp by an administration unwilling to accept the fact that this illegitimate system has failed," said Nancy Hollander, an attorney from the ACLU's John Adams Project who is representing al-Nashiri. "The government has admitted to using torture, specifically waterboarding, to extract statements from Mr. al-Nashiri and then destroying the videotapes of his interrogations. One must suspect the motive of charging him now on the eve of a new administration after incarcerating him for six years without charges."

For more information on the John Adams Project, see: www.aclu.org/johnadams

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