Sixteen years after Sept. 11, 2001, and 17 years after two suicide bombers killed 17 sailors aboard the USS Cole, the death penalty trials of the Guantanamo detainees accused of planning the attacks have not even begun. That was supposed to change in 2018, the planned start date for the military commission trial of the alleged USS Cole bombing mastermind, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. But Nashiri’s prosecution is now in limbo as a result of alleged governmental eavesdropping on his conversations with his lawyers; a secret judicial ruling that limited his right to attorney-client confidentiality; and the subsequent resignation of his civilian defense attorneys, Richard Kammen, Rosa Eliades, and Mary Spears. Kammen’s withdrawal in particular threatened to freeze any progress towards trial. Because the government is seeking to execute Nashiri for his alleged role in the Cole attack, the law requires that he be represented by counsel experienced in death penalty cases (known as “learned counsel”). Kammen had filled that role since 2008.
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