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USS Cole bombing: Judge denies lawyers' bid to meet with unchained client

Lawyers for the alleged USS Cole bombing mastermind say the security restrictions at the Guantanamo Bay terror detention camp are hindering their ability to prepare his defense.

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In one of the more revealing exchanges of the day, defense attorney Richard Kammen asked the military judge in the case to order detention camp officials to allow Nashiri to meet with his defense team at a table with chairs – without the required manacles.

He suggested that Nashiri was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder stemming from the four years he had been interrogated and held in secret custody by the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Kammen said that in addition to being subjected to waterboarding and threatened with a loaded gun and a power drill, Nashiri was most likely held that entire period in shackles.

The defense lawyer suggested that the presence of shackles during his meeting with defense lawyers was triggering some recurrence of his ordeal, degrading Nashiri’s ability to help his lawyers.

Kammen said he was not concerned about his own or his colleagues security.

“We don’t believe there would be any circumstance where we would be at risk,” Kammen said. “Nothing that has occurred in the years that we have been meeting with Mr. Al-Nashiri suggests we would be at any risk.”

Kammen told the military judge, Col. James Pohl, that Nashiri had met with members of the International Committee of the Red Cross without any physical restraints. He said there was no reason he and his team couldn’t visit his client under similar circumstances.

The government’s trial counsel, Anthony Mattivi, objected to Kammen’s request. He said the defense was asking Judge Pohl to substitute his judgment for that of the commander of the terror detention facility.

He said camp officials have attempted to accommodate the defense team’s request by using a single chain fastened to the defendant’s ankles and locked to the floor. He said camp officials would also permit defense counsel to meet with their client on opposite sides of a barrier for non-contact visits.

Judge Pohl said that to grant the defense request would place him in the position of deciding the day-to-day operations of the detention camp. He declined to do so.

Nashiri is classified as a high value Al Qaeda detainee and is considered one of the most important prisoners at Guantanamo.

He is charged with conspiring to murder crewmembers of the USS Cole, an American warship, in the harbor at Aden, Yemen, in October 2000. Seventeen US service members died in the attack.

He allegedly instructed two suicide bombers to exchange friendly waves with crew members on the deck of the warship as the would-be bombers piloted their explosive-laden skiff close enough to the Cole to damage the ship.

Nashiri is also charged with attempted murder for his role in planning a January 2000 attack on the USS The Sullivans in the Aden harbor. That plot failed when the boat carrying the explosives sank shortly after being launched.

He is also accused of planning an October 2002 terror attack on the French supertanker MV Limburg off the coast of Yemen. That attack killed a crewmember.

If convicted, Nashiri faces a potential death sentence.

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