The navy choose in the usS. Cole bombing case on Friday threw out confessions the Saudi defendant had made to federal brokers at Guantánamo Bay after years of secret imprisonment by the C.I.A., declaring the statements the product of torture.
The resolution deprives prosecutors of a key piece of proof in opposition to Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 58, within the longest-running death-penalty case at Guantánamo Bay. He is accused of orchestrating Al Qaeda’s suicide bombing of the warship on Oct. 12, 2000, in Yemen’s Aden Harbor that killed 17 U.S. sailors.
“Exclusion of such evidence is not without societal costs,” the choose, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., wrote in a 50-page decision. “However, permitting the admission of evidence obtained by or derived from torture by the same government that seeks to prosecute and execute the accused may have even greater societal costs.”
The query of whether or not the confessions have been admissible had been seen as an important take a look at of a greater than decade-long joint effort by the Justice and Defense Departments to prosecute accused architects of Qaeda assaults. The particular Guantánamo court docket is designed to grapple with the affect of earlier, violent C.I.A. interrogations on warfare crimes trial, together with death-penalty instances.
Similar efforts to suppress confessions as tainted by torture are being made within the case in opposition to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and 4 different prisoners who’re accused of conspiring within the terrorist assaults of Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Nashiri, like Mr. Mohammed, was waterboarded and subjected to different varieties of torture in 2002 by C.I.A. interrogators, together with contract psychologists, by means of a program of “enhanced interrogation.”
Testimony confirmed that the psychologists took half in a yearslong program that, even after the violent interrogation methods ended, used isolation, sleep deprivation, punishment for defiance and implied threats of extra violence to maintain the prisoners cooperative and chatting with interrogators.
Prosecutors thought-about Mr. Nashiri’s confessions to federal and Navy felony investigative brokers at Guantánamo in early 2007, 4 months after his switch from a C.I.A. jail, to be among the many finest proof in opposition to him.
But prosecutors additionally sought, and obtained permission from the choose, to make use of a transcript from different questioning at Mr. Nashiri’s eventual trial.
In March 2007, he went earlier than a navy panel analyzing his standing as an enemy combatant and was allowed to handle allegations involving his position in Al Qaeda plots. He informed navy officers that he had confessed after being tortured by the C.I.A., however then recanted.
At the executive listening to, Mr. Nashiri denied being a member of Al Qaeda or involvement within the plots however admitted to figuring out Osama bin Laden and receiving funds from him for an unrealized delivery enterprise challenge within the Persian Gulf.
Human rights and worldwide legislation consultants had been eagerly awaiting the choice as a take a look at of a U.S. authorities idea that federal brokers might get hold of a lawful confession, untainted by earlier abuse, if so-called clear groups questioned the defendants with out threats or violence and repeatedly informed former C.I.A. prisoners that their participation was voluntary.
But testimony within the pretrial hearings confirmed that after his seize in 2002, Mr. Nashiri was subjected to each approved and unauthorized bodily and emotional torture in an odyssey by means of the C.I.A. secret jail community — from Thailand to Poland to Afghanistan after which Guantánamo Bay — that included waterboarding, confinement inside a cramped field, rectal abuse and being tormented with a revving drill beside his hooded head to coerce him to reply interrogators’ questions on future and suspected Qaeda plots.
By the time he was questioned by federal brokers in January 2007, legal professionals and consultants argued, the prisoner was educated to answer his interrogators’ questions.
Colonel Acosta, who retires from the Army subsequent month, agreed.
Mr. Nashiri had no motive to imagine “that his circumstances had substantially changed when he was marched in to be interviewed by the newest round of U.S. personnel in late January 2007,” Colonel Acosta mentioned. “Any resistance the accused might have been inclined to put up when asked to incriminate himself was intentionally and literally beaten out of him years before.”
“If there was ever a case the place the circumstances of an accused’s prior statements impacted his potential to make a later voluntary assertion, that is such a case. Even if the 2007 statements weren’t obtained by torture or merciless, inhuman, and degrading remedy, they have been derived from it.”
Rear Adm. Aaron C. Rugh, the chief prosecutor, didn’t reply to a query of whether or not his staff would attraction the ruling.
“It would be inappropriate to comment on the case while litigation is ongoing,” the Pentagon’s workplace of navy commissions mentioned in an announcement. “The prosecution in that case remains committed to seeking justice for the families of the victims of U.S.S. Cole.”
With a brand new choose anticipated later this 12 months, prosecutors might search reconsideration on the Guantánamo court docket or elevate the difficulty with a Pentagon appeals panel, the Court of Military Commissions Review.
Separately, the panel is contemplating a problem to Colonel Acosta’s standing as the choose in the usS. Cole case. Defense legal professionals had asked him to step down earlier this 12 months when he disclosed that he was making use of for a post-retirement, civilian job as clerk of the Air Force Judiciary. Colonel Acosta refused, saying he had disclosed his utility the day after he utilized for the job, and so there was no hidden bias in favor of the federal government.
Katie Carmon, one of Mr. Nashiri’s legal professionals, mentioned there was no instant plan to withdraw their problem and known as Colonel Acosta’s resolution suppressing the 2007 interrogations each “morally and legally correct.”
“The government that tortured Mr. al-Nashiri has never been held accountable,” she mentioned. “But today’s ruling is a small step forward as the government loses a critical part of its prosecution.”