WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has thrown out years of legal proceedings in the already-delayed military commission case against a Saudi citizen charged in the deadly 2000 bombing of a U.S. warship.
On Tuesday, an appellate panel said that a military judge improperly continued to preside over the case after he sought a job in the Justice Department beginning in 2015. Retired Air Force Col. Vance Spath took a job last year as an immigration judge in the Justice Department.
“We cannot permit an appearance of partiality to infect a system of justice that requires the most scrupulous conduct from its adjudicators,” Judge David Tatel wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. The military judge who briefly replaced Spath, Col. Shelly Schools, was taken off the case after it was revealed that Schools also was seeking to become an immigration judge.
Defendant Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is accused of orchestrating the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors and wounded 37. He could get the death penalty if convicted by the commission on charges that include terrorism and murder in the al-Qaida plot.
Al-Nashiri, in U.S. custody since 2002, is being held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The military commission proceedings have repeatedly stalled since al-Nashiri’s arraignment in 2011.
Print Headline: Proceedings against Saudi tossed in USS Cole case