Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi of Yemeni descent, is charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, murder and attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, and terrorism. The US alleges that al-Nashiri participated in the planning and preparation for the attack on the destroyer USS Cole on October 12, 2000, the failed attack on the destroyer USS The Sullivans on January 3, 2000, and the attack on the French supertanker SS Limburg on October 6, 2002. These are the first charges to be brought from the investigation into the USS Cole bombing. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. (In September 2004, he was sentenced to death in absentia by a Yemeni court.)
Although al-Nashiri was arrested in 2002, he was held incommunicado in CIA custody for almost four years before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006. In February 2008 CIA director General Michael Hayden confirmed that the US had waterboarded al-Nashiri and two other detainees while he was being held in CIA custody. Waterboarding, a torture technique in which a prisoner is made to believe he is drowning, violates both the federal anti-torture statute and the War Crimes Act. Although the CIA videotaped the interrogations in which terrorism suspects were waterboarded and subjected to other "severe interrogation techniques," the CIA confirmed that at least two videotapes documenting the interrogations had been destroyed in 2005. Several officials said that the tapes were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that the video could expose agency officials to legal or security risks.
Human Rights Watch expects the use of evidence allegedly obtained through abuse to be a central concern in his case. According to the released transcript of his hearing before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal on March 14, 2007, al-Nashiri claimed that any confessions he made were coerced during years of torture by US officials.
After a military judge defied President Obama's request to halt all military commissions proceedings by scheduling a hearing in al-Nashiri's case, the senior official overseeing the Guantanamo trials withdrew the charges against al-Nashiri on February 6, 2009. However, charges were re-sworn against al-Nashiri on April 20, 2011.
On November 9, 2011, Nashiri was arraigned in a military commission at Guantanamo. The case has been in pre-trial hearings ever since and a trial date is likely years away. The delay is the result of the military commissions system’s use of new rules that have not been tested, the US government’s decision to classify important evidence related to the defendants’ torture in CIA custody, and the commissions' remote location at Guantanamo, among other things. In October 2017, all but one of Nashiri's lawyers resigned from the case over ethical conflicts. (Last updated August 9, 2018)