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Cole Bombing Suspect Hearings On Hold As CIA Interrogation Techniques Questioned

Pre-trial hearings for the suspected American warship bomber are on hold until mid-April as doctors assess his mental competency and the military commission determines how that will affect future proceedings, American Forces Press Service reported.

The latest round of hearings for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri which began on January 4 at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay was scheduled to conclude on Thursday.

However, that schedule got derailed after the prosecution requested a mental-health assessment, challenging the defense claim that Nashiri suffered from long-term post-traumatic stress allegedly caused by enhanced interrogation techniques the CIA used on him before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

Defense counsels questioned what such an assessment would provide, telling the commission judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, they lack faith in any medical practitioner the convening authority might appoint to conduct it. Pohl authorized the exam, but granted the defense request that Dr. Vincent Iacopino, a member of the Physicians for Human Rights organization with expertise in torture, be called on to provide advice on how to conduct it without "doing harm."

Iacopino testified via teleconference on February 5, explaining special requirements for mental health exams on torture victims. He acknowledged that he has neither met nor examined Nashiri.

Dr. Sondra Crosby, who reportedly has examined hundreds of torture victims as director of medical care at the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights, is expected to conduct the exam.

Pohl told the court that he would not take up other legal and administrative issues surrounding the case until after the mental-health assessment is complete. He recessed the court following Iacopino's testimony, and proceedings are expected to continue in mid-April.

Nashiri is the alleged mastermind behind the bombing of USS Cole off the Yemeni coast in October 2000 that killed 17 sailors.

Nashiri is a Saudi-born al-Qaeda activist. U.S. officials allege he was under the personal supervision of Osama bin Laden, and that bin Laden personally approved the attacks on the U.S. aircraft carrier.

by RTT Staff Writer

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