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In First Court Appearance, U.S.S. Cole Case Judge Sets Goal of 2025 Trial

In First Court Appearance, U.S.S. Cole Case Judge Sets Goal of 2025 Trial


It has been an extended look forward to survivors of the assault and kinfolk of the sailors who had been killed. A Saudi prisoner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, has been in U.S. custody since 2002 and was first charged in 2011, making his the longest-running capital case at Guantánamo Bay.

Paul Abney, a senior sailor on the ship, referred to as the judge’s announcement “pleasant phrases to listen to.” He was in court docket on Monday for the hearings and has traveled to Guantánamo about 10 instances since 2012 to observe the authorized wranglings.

“Even if it doesn’t occur subsequent 12 months, the truth that he’s prepared to place a goal date down, and make it a aim to shoot for is, I feel, inspiring,” stated Mr. Abney, a retired Navy grasp chief.

Colonel Fitzgerald has 14 extra weeks of hearings on the 2024 calendar. Pretrial issues but to be tackled embrace the admissibility of some proof, proposed witnesses, whether or not Mr. Nashiri might be tried by a navy fee, find out how to seat a panel of navy officers and whether or not Mr. Nashiri could be entitled to administrative credit score if he’s convicted however not sentenced to demise.

Even earlier than court docket started, the judge issued an order with deadlines for each side to arrange for trial. The timetable orders legal professionals for Mr. Nashiri to offer prosecutors with an inventory of witnesses they might need to name to testify on the trial by Jan. 9.

The judge introduced the aim in his first hour on the bench. But he made no point out of a authorities effort to get an appellate panel to overturn a choice by his predecessor.

Colonel Acosta excluded, as tainted by torture, confessions the defendant made to federal brokers at Guantánamo Bay after years of secret imprisonment by the C.I.A. Mr. Nashiri was subjected to waterboarding, rectal abuse and extended sleep deprivation. Prosecutors have requested the Court of Military Commissions Review to reinstate the confessions.

Regardless of which method the panel guidelines, protection or prosecution legal professionals are anticipated to take the query to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a course of that would final a lot of this 12 months.

In February 2020, Colonel Acosta set deadlines towards a February 2022 trial date for Mr. Nashiri. But the following month, the coronavirus pandemic pressured the Guantánamo court docket to shut for about 500 days. Colonel Acosta retired final 12 months with out setting a trial date.

On the bench on Monday, Colonel Fitzgerald stated he has had “an unorthodox navy profession.” He enlisted within the Army after highschool, served as a psychiatric specialist from 1986 to 1990 after which labored on Army medevac missions till 1999, all within the United States.

He left the service to attend faculty, taught highschool after which selected legislation. He was in his second 12 months of legislation college when the Cole was bombed and was in his remaining 12 months throughout the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults. He returned to the Army as a lawyer in 2003 and was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and in addition the navy jail at Guantánamo Bay in 2008.

At Guantánamo, he did a 90-day stint on a authorized workforce that was created to answer any new court docket filings for the detainees in mild of a Supreme Court ruling, Boumediene v. Bush, that gave detainees significant assessment of their detention in federal courts. Colonel Fitzgerald referred to as it “the mission that by no means got here,” as a result of “zero writs had been filed on our watch.”

While he was there, Colonel Fitzgerald stated he took the initiative to supply recommendation to the commander of a navy police unit that didn’t have a resident employees lawyer and took excursions of the jail, together with the high-value detainee website the place Mr. Nashiri was stored.

Colonel Fitzgerald is the one judge at navy commissions who is thought to have seen the detention amenities at Guantánamo. But he stated he averted making eye contact with the detainees and had no reminiscence of who was held there.

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