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Guantanamo prisoner can be indefinitely detained despite acquittal: prosecutors

US prosecutors argued Wednesday that even if suspected USS Cole [JURIST news archive] bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [NYT profile; JURIST news archive] is acquitted by a military tribunal, the US government has the authority to detain him [text, PDF] in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] until the end of the hostilities in the US war on terror [JURIST news archive]. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes, Al-Nashiri's defense attorney, argued that Al-Nashiri's inevitable indefinite detention renders his trial merely a show [JURIST report] that lacks meaningful reprieve, and that jurors have the right to be informed that they are simply playing a role in a pre-determined political decision. Prosecutors have responded that the tribunal's jurisdiction over the fate of the accused has always been limited and that a jury's potential to find Al-Nashiri guilty and ultimately sentence him to death for war crimes [Miami Herald report] is an issue separate from governmental authority to keep enemy combatants off the battlefield. Al-Nashiri's arraignment, scheduled for November 9, will be the first time has has appeared in public since his capture in 2002 after a series of transfers among CIA prison systems. Al-Nashiri will also be the first Guantanamo prisoner to face a possible death sentence.

Al-Nashiri, the alleged plotter of the USS Cole bombing, has been at the center of controversy for many years. In May, lawyers for al-Nashiri filed suit against Poland [JURIST report] over his supposed torture in a secret CIA prison [JURIST news archive] in the country. In 2007, al-Nashiri declared that his confession to orchestrating the USS Cole bombing was elicited under torture [JURIST report]. Al-Nashiri, along with fellow militant Jamal al-Badawi [FBI backgrounder], was sentenced to death [JURIST report] by a Yemeni court in 2004 for his role in the attack on the Cole. At least 17 sailors were killed [BBC report] and 40 were wounded in the USS Cole bombing in Aden, Yemen, on October 12, 2000.

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