WARSAW, Poland — Ten years ago this month, al-Qaida terrorists drove an explosives-laden boat into the USS Cole, a Navy destroyer refueling in Yemen, killing 17 American sailors. But the man suspected of engineering that attack still hasn't been brought to trial.
Polish prosecutors are looking at him as a victim as they investigate a now-shuttered secret CIA prison that operated in Poland, where he was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, according to former U.S. intelligence officials and publicly available documents.
The chief prosecutor in the case, Jerzy Mierzewski, said Wednesday that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri has received the status of victim, a move that allows the detainee's lawyers to participate in the larger investigation by reviewing evidence and calling witnesses.
Legal experts said the move shows that Polish investigators recognize the validity of Nashiri's claims, a boost to his claim that comes as U.S. courts have refused to allow cases involving rendition to move forward for national security reasons.
"The prosecutor has clearly recognized the seriousness of al-Nashiri's claims, and we hope he will continue to press forward with this investigation," said Amrit Singh, senior legal officer with the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Polish officials in power when the prison was in operation, early in the presidency George W. Bush, still deny its existence, but Nashiri's victim status weakens their position and raises the prospect that some of them could eventually be charged with abuse of power.
According to former intelligence officials and flight records, Nashiri was moved from Poland to Rabat, Morocco, on June 6, 2003, and then moved repeatedly to and from CIA sites in Guantanamo, Rabat and Romania until he was finally returned to Guantanamo in September 2006.
Nashiri's case at Guantanamo is in limbo as the White House decides whether to prosecute him in a U.S. military court or a federal civilian court.