MIAMI — The Pentagon on Monday announced a proposed death penalty prosecution of a Saudi man at Guantanamo, alleging he organized the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Aden, Yemen, that killed 17 American sailors.
The 11-page charge sheets, signed by a Marine major, accuse Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, 43, of conspiracy, murder and other violations of the laws of war.
It seeks to try him by military commission at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba and execute him if he is convicted.
Nashiri is accused of testing explosives and equipping what looked like a small civilian garbage barge with bombs. The barge, piloted by two al-Qaida bombers who died in the explosion, pulled up next to the American destroyer on Oct. 12, 2000.
In September 2006, after President Bush ordered Nashiri's transfer from secret CIA custody to Guantanamo, the White House described the Mecca-born captive as "al-Qaida's operations chief in the Arabian Peninsula."
The CIA subsequently confirmed it subjected him to waterboarding to extract his confession while he was held in secret overseas detention after his capture in 2002.
In March 2007, according to a partially censored Pentagon transcript, Nashiri told U.S. military officers at Guantanamo that he concocted the confession to please his captors.
"From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me," he said then.
At a Pentagon news conference Monday afternoon, the general overseeing the trials said that Nashiri allegedly answered to al-Qaida chieftain Osama bin Laden and traveled to Afghanistan to organize the plot.
The Saudi becomes the 20th Guantanamo detainee facing war crimes charges and the seventh facing possible execution if convicted.