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Military judge orders mental health exam for suspected USS Cole bomber

Colonel James Pohl, the military judge presiding over the trial of suspected USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [JURIST news archive], on Monday ordered a mental health examination for the defendant to determine whether he is competent to stand trial. Nashiri is accused of masterminding the suicide bombing of the USS Cole [BBC backgrounder] in 2000 that left 17 dead and 40 injured. The CIA used enhanced interrogation techniques [Miami Herald report] on Nashiri, including water-boarding, and his defense counsel has claimed that he has post traumatic stress disorder as a result. In response, the government requested [trial transcripts] the examination under Rule 706 of the Manual for Courts-Martial [text, PDF]. However, Pohl will hear expert testimony from Dr. Vincent Iacopino of the University of Minnesota Medical School, a leading expert on the proper methods for examining those who have been tortured, before assembling a three doctor panel to assess Nashiri's mental health.

Monday's ruling came after Pohl refused to halt [JURIST report] further hearing in response to unsubstantiated allegations by defense counsel that the government was eavesdropping on private conversations with their client. Last month, Pohl denied a motion by Nashiri's lawyers to to dismiss the alleged violations of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) [text, PDF] on the grounds that the bombing occurred "prior to the commencement of hostilities" between the US and al Queda. Pohl, who is also presiding over the trial of alleged 9/11 conspirators, approved a request [JURIST report] by the government to censor testimony by the defendants with respect to alleged use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

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