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Reuters reports that the dismissal brings the Pentagon fully into compliance with President Barack Obama's request for a 120-day stay of all military tribunals of terrorism suspects.
The move avoided a showdown between the U.S. military and President Barack Obama. It cancelled a hearing that had been set for Monday in the Guantánamo war crimes court, despite the fact Obama had ordered a freeze in proceedings there.
Susan Crawford, the retired judge who oversees the commissions, issued a ruling dismissing without prejudice all charges against Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, said Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander J.D. Gordon.
Nashiri is accused of plotting the attack on the Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000.
The BBC writes that the attack in 2000 occurred when two militants blew up a small boat loaded with explosives next to the anchored Cole. The attack killed 17 US sailors. Mr. Nashiri was arrested in the United Arab Emirates in 2002 on charges of conspiring with the militants, and was later transferred to Guantánamo.
The Washington Post writes that the Judge Crawford's decision to dismiss charges without prejudice means that the Obama administration could reinstate charges against Nashiri at a later date. Had the trial continued in defiance of Mr. Obama's request, reinstatement of charges may not have been possible.
The tactic was also used by the Bush administration when it wanted to stop various proceedings at Guantánamo. The Pentagon under Bush dismissed without prejudice charges in six cases and reinstated them later in three of those cases.
If the case had proceeded against Nashiri, a Saudi facing capital charges, a guilty plea could have boxed in the administration. The legal principle of double jeopardy would apply, and it would have been very difficult to move his case to another court, according to defense attorneys.