A military judge on Tuesday denied the request of suspected USS Cole bomber and Guantanamo inmate Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [NYT profile; JURIST news archive] to question Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh [BBC profile] as a witness in his case. The judge, US Army Colonel James Pohl, did not give a rationale for his ruling [AP report], saying only that he would explain his decision later. In January, the US State Department (DOS) [official website] declared [press release] that Saleh has diplomatic immunity despite his seeking medical treatment in the US. Nashiri's lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes, said that diplomatic immunity should not apply to Saleh in this case because he will be questioned as a witness rather than as a suspect. Reyes remarked that Pohl's refusal to allow Saleh to be questioned undermines Nashiri's ability to mount a capital defense [Miami Herald report]. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for April. Nashiri's legal team is trying to decide if it can appeal Pohl's decision.
Nashiri has been at the center of controversy for many years. In November, Nashiri made his first court appearance [JURIST report] for war crimes relating to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. In May, Nashiri's lawyers filed suit against Poland [JURIST report] over his alleged torture in that country. In September 2010, a human rights group, Open Society Justice Initiative [advocacy website], filed a request [JURIST report] with Polish prosecutors for an investigation into the detention and torture of Nashiri in a secret CIA prison.