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USS Cole Terror Case Tested by Secondhand Witnesses

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A military judge, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., will have to decide whether half-remembered accounts from American agents recounting what Yemeni eyewitnesses told them two decades ago are admissible as evidence in a death-penalty trial related to the deadly bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000, Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, currently detained in Guant√°namo, is awaiting a trial to consider the death penalty for his alleged role in the bombing.

Last week, during a hearing in the case, a retired FBI agent first described Yemeni eyewitnesses he interviewed as pointing to a photo of al-Nashiri and identifying him as the person who rented a safehouse used during the attack. When cross-examined, the agent recanted his statement: actually, the eyewitnesses identified one of the suicide bombers, not al-Nashiri. Prosecutors say they have no way to bring in any of the over 100 Yemeni witnesses interviewed as part of the case back in the 2000s, but Col. Acosta will have to decide if variable memories of secondhand testimony from agents is enough to sentence al-Nashiri to death after 20 years.

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