GUANTANAMO BAY US NAVAL BASE - An alleged al Qaeda chieftain accused of launching a deadly bomb attack in 2000 on a US Navy ship was arraigned on Wednesday at a US military tribunal hearing marked by questions about how the judge would handle potential evidence of torture.
Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a rotund 46-year-old Saudi with close-cropped black hair and dark stubble, appeared in public for the first time during his nine years in US custody.
Facing a top-security courtroom at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in Cuba, he postponed entering a plea and waived the reading of war crimes charges that include murder, attempted murder, conspiring with al Qaeda and attacking civilians - charges that could eventually lead to his execution if he is convicted.
Nashiri is accused of orchestrating the October 2000 attack that killed 17 sailors and wounded three dozen more on the USS Cole. Suicide bombers detonated a boat full of explosives alongside the ship while it refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden, blowing a 30-foot (9-meter) hole in the hull. He is accused of launching a similar attack that killed a crewman aboard a French oil tanker off Yemen.
When the case is ready for trial in a year or two, a
military jury is expected to hear gruesome details of the
attack on the Cole, descriptions of bloody decks and sailors'
mangled bodies embedded in metal walls shredded by the blast.