ARLINGTON, Va. — Almost eight years after the attack on the USS Cole, the first suspect has been charged in connection with the attack.
On Oct. 12, 2000, two men pulled alongside the Cole while the ship was refueling and set off explosives, killing 17 sailors and wounding 47 others.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is accused of helping to "plan and organize and direct" attacks against the Cole as well as an attempted attack on the USS The Sullivans and an attack on a French tanker in 2002, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann.
Al-Nashiri faces charges of conspiracy to violate the law of war, murder in violation of the law of war, treachery or perfidy, terrorism, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, providing material support to terrorism and attempted murder, the Defense Department announced on Monday.
"Five of the eight charges carry the maximum penalty of death," said Hartmann, legal advisor to the convening authority for the Office of Military Commissions. "The chief prosecutor has recommended that this case be referred as capital, thereby seeking to bring this as a death penalty case."
A judge will now review the evidence to determine if the case should proceed to trial and whether it would be a capital case, Hartmann said.
Asked if evidence against al-Nashiri could be considered tainted because it was obtained by waterboarding, Hartmann said the judge will weigh all the evidence against Nashiri.
"We’ll leave that to the trial process, which is why military commissions exist — to allow a fair, just and open trial process."
Hartmann did not provide much information on how big of a role al-Nashiri played in the attacks.
In 1999, Al-Nashiri allegedly rented apartments in Aden, Yemen, overlooking the port, and he rented houses to prepare for an attack on the U.S. military, Hartmann said.
When an attempt to attack The Sullivans with an explosive-laden boat failed in January 2000, al-Nashiri allegedly helped salvage the boat and consulted with Osama bin Laden on how to reorganize the plot, Hartmann said.