[JURIST] The Obama administration has halted plans to prosecute Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [NYT profile] for his alleged involvement in the 2000 USS Cole attack [JURIST news archive], according to a Washington Post report [text] Thursday. According to the report, the intention not to pursue charges was revealed in a motion filed with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites]. This intention was revealed by a single sentence in the filing, which states that charges against al-Nashiri are not pending or being considered. Reacting to the report, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] stated that the decision not to prosecute al-Nashiri in the near future demonstrates the “inherent unfairness of the military commissions,” [press release] continuing:
The current state of the al-Nashiri trial underscores the fact that the military commissions system is designed to get convictions – not to provide fair trials that result in real justice. In the military commissions, the prosecution has all the power and the money, while the defense remains severely under-resourced. While the prosecution is getting paid to perfect its case against al-Nashiri, his lone defense attorney has been denied much-needed resources and all but blocked from preparing a defense. This is one more reason the military commissions should be shut down for good, and terrorism suspects should be tried in federal courts that guarantee the right to a robust defense and uphold the rule of law.
The Defense Department refuted the assertion that the government was not pursuing charges against al-Nashiri Thursday, stating that there was an active investigation ongoing against him.
In February 2009, the Pentagon formally dropped charges [JURIST report] against al-Nashiri. The order ended the last active military commission trial, complying with President Barack Obama’s executive order mandating a reprieve of the prosecution [JURIST report] of all cases at Guantanamo. Al-Nashiri was accused of terrorism, attempted murder and providing material support to terrorism for his alleged role in planning the USS Cole attack. He was charged in June 2008 [JURIST report] under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF]. He would have faced the death penalty if found guilty at his military tribunal [JURIST news archive]. In 2004, a Yemeni security court charged al-Nashiri in absentia [JURIST report] in connection with the attack, saying he belonged to al Qaeda [CFR backgrounder]. In 2005, a Yemeni appeals court upheld a death sentence [JURIST reports] against him.