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Author of UN Torture Document to be Expert in Gitmo USS Cole Trial

The taxpayer price tag so far for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri's experts is more than half a million dollars; his lawyer claims accused mastermind has torture PTSD.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

February 4, 2013 - 7:14 pm
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By of the end of 2012, more than $560,000 in taxpayer dollars had been provided to the defense of accused USS Cole bombing mastermind Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri just for experts, investigators, and consultants.

That doesn’t count the money allocated by the Defense Department to spend on travel, learned counsel, translators, a full-time investigator, office expenses, lodging, and other logistics costs for the defense team, noted chief prosecutor Mark Martins at Guantanamo Bay today.

Although that experts sum is nearly double the average cost for all expenses and salaries in a federal court death-penalty trial, al-Nashiri’s case is still at a competency stage in pretrial hearings — and the military judge approved a defense request for one controversial expert witness to deliver testimony this week related to the U.S. government, torture, and the accused operative of Osama bin Laden.

Vincent Iacopino is principal author of the Istanbul Protocol: the Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment adopted by the United Nations in 1999. “The whole purpose of this manual is so that perpetrators can be prosecuted,” Commander Andrea Lockhart said for the prosecution at the military commission, arguing it has nothing to do with the psych evaluation of al-Nashiri requested by the government.

Al-Nashiri’s civilian lawyer, Indiana criminal defense attorney Richard Kammen, said no part of their defense would hinge on his mental state at the time of the Yemen attack, nor have they suggested their client isn’t competent to stand trial.

Kammen said he came to the matter “with a fairly jaded outlook — let’s just say there were lots of doctors involved with Mr. Nashriri who didn’t follow the Hippocratic Oath.” He argued that al-Nashiri has “functionally untreated” post-traumatic stress disorder due to torture and said he didn’t trust the court’s panel of experts to assess the “unique population” of terror suspects who’ve “been kept in very onerous circumstances.”

Prosecutor Anthony W. Mattivi read from the introduction to the Istanbul Protocol, noting the defense had moved multiple times before to bring the document’s author into the case. “Take a look at this document,” he said. “What you will find is it is not relevant for the purposes it was offered by the defense.”

In The Guardian in 2011, Iacopino wrote of “documenting medical evidence of torture” and serving as an expert in a number of Guantanamo cases.

“In each of the cases that I have evaluated, the physical and psychological evidence of torture is consistent with the UN Convention Against Torture’s definition of torture,” Iacopino wrote. In a 2002 paper, he called torture a “weapon of mass destruction.”

Al-Nashiri, a 48-year-old Saudi, is charged with murder, terrorism, and other counts in an attempted attack on the USS The Sullivans in January 2000, the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, and an attack on the MV Limburg in October 2002. Seventeen sailors were killed and dozens injured when an explosive-laden boat rammed the Cole in the port of Aden, and one crew member was killed in the attack on the Limburg oil tanker.

Clean-shaven unlike the other al-Qaeda suspects facing the death penalty in last week’s case, with neatly cropped hair and a white jumpsuit, al-Nashiri sat quietly with his hands folded during the proceedings, wearing translation headphones and later in the day donning a gray jacket.

He is one of three individuals former CIA Director Michael Hayden admitted to waterboarding at the agency’s overseas sites. Arrested in the United Arab Emirates in 2002, al-Nashiri was transferred to Gitmo to stand charges as an enemy combatant in 2006. “From the time I was arrested . . . they have been torturing me,” he said in 2007 during his first case, in which charges with withdrawn in 2009 and refiled in 2011. “One time they tortured me one way, and another time they tortured me in a different way.” Al-Nashiri claimed he made up information during his interrogations to make his questioners “happy.”

It was a good day for his defense team, as they also won the suspension of proceedings while the government mental-health evaluation of their client is conducted in the next few weeks, and the right for a doctor to give him a physical examination with the prisoner unrestrained. The defense argued that a shackled physical exam would cause their client “retraumatization.”

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