The Department of Defense announced today that military commissions prosecutors have sworn charges against Abd al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al Nashiri of Saudi Arabia.
The chief prosecutor has recommended that the charges against Nashiri be referred as capital. Capital charges may only be pursued with the convening authority’s approval.
The charges allege that Nashiri was in charge of the planning and preparation for the attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) in the Port of Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000. The attack killed 17 sailors, wounded 40 sailors, and severely damaged the ship by blowing a 30-foot by 30-foot hole in her side. The charges also allege that Nashiri was in charge of planning and preparation for an attempted attack on USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) as that ship refueled in the Port of Aden on Jan. 3, 2000.
It is further alleged that Nashiri was in charge of the planning and preparation for an attack on the French civilian oil tanker MV Limburg in the Gulf of Aden on Oct. 6, 2002. This attack resulted in the death of one crewmember and the release of approximately 90,000 barrels of oil into the gulf.
The charges allege that Nashiri committed offenses that are chargeable under the Military Commissions Act of 2009, 10 U.S.C. §§ 948a, et seq. Under that act, he may be convicted only if his guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, Nashiri is charged with the following substantive offenses: terrorism; attacking civilians; attacking civilian objects; intentionally causing serious bodily injury; hazarding a vessel; using treachery or perfidy; murder in violation of the law of war; attempted murder in violation of the law of war; conspiracy to commit terrorism and murder in violation of the law of war; destruction of property in violation of the law of war; and attempted destruction of property in violation of the law of war.
These charges go beyond what is necessary to establish that Nashiri may be lawfully detained under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, as informed by the laws of war -- an issue that each Guantanamo detainee may challenge in a habeas petition in federal court.
In accordance with the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the sworn charges will be forwarded to the Convening Authority, Bruce MacDonald. The convening authority will make an independent determination as to whether to refer some, all, or none of the charges for trial by military commission. If the convening authority decides to refer the case to trial, he will designate commission panel members (jurors). The chief trial judge of the Military Commissions Trial Judiciary would then assign a military judge to the case.