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Fort Meade (AFP) Maryland (AFP) Oct 24, 2012
The main suspect in the USS Cole bombing appeared before a military judge Wednesday complaining of having to wear chains and endure attacks from guards at the US jail in Guantanamo Bay.
Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the deadly October 2000 attack in Yemen, stood before a special military court and said he had wanted to attend previous hearings but "the one thing that would prevent me from coming is the chains and the security measures."
The defendant in the death penalty case, his hair short, his face freshly shaven and wearing a tunic and white trousers with a gray suit jacket, alleged that prison guards were mistreating him.
"In my prison... there are attacks on me under the so-called security measures," he said, according to a retransmission of the hearing shown to reporters and relatives of the attack's victims at a Maryland military base.
"I'll let the world know that the judge sentenced me to death because I didn't show up due to chains," he said, speaking in Arabic, which was being simultaneously translated.
This was day two of a three-day preliminary hearing. Nashiri waived his right to attend the first day in protest over having to wear chains while being transported to the court room.
He said his refusal to appear on Tuesday and earlier, in July, were "because of the ill-treatment of the guards.
"They say security, (but) they can't do anything in the name of security, that's impossible. Security must have a limit."
He thanked the judge for giving him an opportunity to speak, saying nobody has heard "for 10 years what I have to say today."
"I have a bad back," he complained, but "they insist on placing belly chains around my waist."
He said the guards also put chains on his wrists and legs, and, holding up his hands to show they were empty, he argued that the chains have nothing to do with security.
The judge interrupted, preventing him from describing all the measures taken against him.
"This is my case. This is my right to defend myself," Nashiri countered.
After the judge read Nashiri his rights to be present to hear the case against him, the defendant promised to come to all future hearings, on condition of better treatment.
He asked for "a comfortable chair, a comfortable car," saying he is "getting sick."
Nashiri, like the September 11 suspects held at Guantanamo, was subjected to harsh interrogations while being held at a secret CIA prison in Poland, former CIA director Michael Hayden has acknowledged.
An alleged associate of late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Nashiri has been in US custody since 2002.
The United States is seeking the death penalty against the 47-year-old, who is accused of directing the suicide attack in Yemen that left 17 sailors dead.
Lawyers representing him have requested information on another man, Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, killed in a drone attack on Yemen in 2002 and presented as the mastermind of the attack under the administration of George W. Bush.
Prosecutor Andrea Lockhart responded by saying that information and communications that may relate to his death "are not relevant, necessary and material to the preparation of the defense in this case."
Militants rammed an explosives-laden skiff into the side of the Cole in the port of Aden, blowing a 30-by-30-foot (10-by-10-meter) hole in the destroyer and nearly sinking it. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.
Nashiri is also accused of being behind a 2002 attack on the French oil tanker MV Limburg that killed one person.
Rick Kammen, a lawyer for Nashiri, contested the competency of the military tribunal in judging his client.
When the USS Cole was attacked in 2000, "for the US, it was simply not at war," he said, adding that "not all hostilities are subject to law of war" and that therefore the case was not the responsibility of a military tribunal.
"The Limburg was a French ship operating in international waters," he added.
With Hurricane Sandy approaching Cuba, the session was delayed in the mid-afternoon until Thursday morning.
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