U.S. Government Announces Charges Against USS Cole Suspect Al-Nashiri In Guantánamo Military Commission System

June 30, 2008 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – Even while the Bush administration’s Guantánamo policy continues to crumble, the U.S. government announced charges today against another detainee. The government is seeking the death penalty for 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 detainees.

This is the first military commissions case to be charged since the Supreme Court dealt a major blow to the Bush administration’s national security policies by ruling earlier this month that the Constitution applies to Guantánamo and that all 270 prisoners there can challenge their indefinite detention in federal court.

“The ACLU has assembled a legal team to represent Al-Nashiri to protect constitutional principles that are the bedrock of American liberty, including the right to a fair trial and a vigorous and properly resourced defense,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “This case – like that of other Guantánamo detainees – is being pursued in an unconstitutional and biased system that is a far cry from the tried-and-true American justice system. With the government’s continued insistence on using a patently unconstitutional system, we are redoubling our effort to make sure this unlawful farce will not go on unchallenged.”

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.

Now Susan Crawford, the military commissions’ convening authority, must decide if and how to press forward with Al-Nashiri’s case. If Crawford decides to “refer the charges” for prosecution, Al-Nashiri would be required to appear before the military commission within 30 days of such referral for an arraignment.

Nancy Hollander, an attorney from the ACLU’s John Adams Project, and Theresa Duncan will be representing Al-Nashiri in the military commissions if charges are referred.

“The government admitted to waterboarding Mr. Al-Nashiri and will be basing its prosecution on evidence obtained through torture. It will use this information in a military commission proceeding that provides none of the safeguards that protect from an unjust conviction,” said Hollander. “These procedures – and the torture committed by our government – clearly violate both U.S. law and the moral standards that are the foundation of our country.”

“No matter how hard the Bush administration pushes in its waning days, our defense team is committed to doing everything possible to ensure that this case does not become a political show trial where prosecutions and convictions happen in the blink of an eye without regard for due process, the rules of evidence and the U.S. Constitution,” added Romero.

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

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