Gavel Grab

Military Judge Declines to Recuse in USS Cole Trial

U.S. Army Col. James Pohl has declined to step aside from presiding as judge over the death-penalty trial at Guantánamo of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, accused of masterminding al-Qaida’s 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole.

Defense lawyers contended that in Pohl’s post-retirement status, he could be subject to undue influence from the military and also from officers who command him, according to a Christian Science Monitor article.

“My status is no different than any other military judge,” Pohl said in rejecting the defense lawyers’ arguments.

The article said Pohl’s ruling was important in part because he will also preside over two other military commission trials, including that of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, admitted architect of the 9/11 terror attacks. Reporter Warren Richey explained:

“Because there is only limited legal precedent guiding the newly created military commission process at Guantanamo, Pohl will play a particularly important role in shaping how tribunals will be conducted, such as deciding which pieces of evidence are allowed in the trials, including classified information and details culled from coercive interrogations.”

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