GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — The chief war court judge declined to disqualify himself Tuesday from presiding at the guided-missile destroyer Cole capital murder case, dismissing defense objections to his post-retirement status and choice to preside at all the former CIA captives’ trials at Guantanamo.
Army Col. James Pohl said he found no merit in the arguments of defense lawyers for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri that there was at the very least a perception of a conflict.
Pohl’s decision to keep the case is irreversible in this process, which provides no interlocutory appeal on the issue at the military commission that is seeking al-Nashiri’s execution as the alleged architect of the suicide bombing of the Cole off Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in the al-Qaida attack.
Defense attorneys spent the rest of the first day of a three-day hearing asking the judge to fund several consultants and additional legal staff for the death-penalty case, from a memory expert to one on handling national security evidence.
Pohl did not rule on those issues.
Defense attorneys had sought an active-duty military judge whose contract is not up for annual review by the Department of the Army. The defense also said the process would benefit from a variety of judges making decisions beyond Pohl, a 32-year career Army officer with 12 years experience presiding at American soldiers’ courts martial.
Pohl has described himself as “a process guy” who follows the rules of court.
Al-Nashiri attorney Richard Kammen argued that military commissions are so historic and new, tackling “completely unknown, untested, unheard issues,” that the process would benefit from different rulings by different judges.
The hearing is to resume today in a secret session between the judge and lawyers.