“Victims’ Families Still Await Justice as Trial Delayed for 20 Years”

By | August 16, 2023



The trial for the bombing of the USS Cole warship, which occurred nearly 12 years ago, is still yet to begin, leaving the families of fallen American sailors waiting for justice. In the 20 years since the attack, 18 parents and 10 shipmates have died. The case has been overshadowed by the better-known prosecution of the 9/11 attacks. The accused, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, is accused of being the mastermind behind the bombing. The case has been delayed due to various factors, including challenges to the reliability of testimonies and allegations of torture. Carol Rosenberg reported

Over the past 12 years, eight parents of the 17 American sailors who were killed in the bombing of the USS Cole warship have died while waiting for the trial to begin. In total, 10 more shipmates have also passed away in the two decades since the attack. Initially, relatives and survivors would travel to Guantánamo Bay to witness pretrial proceedings, but in recent years, attendance has dwindled to just a few individuals. The bombing of the Cole has received far less attention than the high-profile prosecution of the five men accused of plotting the September 11 attacks. As time goes on, the Cole case has become forgotten and justice seems elusive. The slow progress can be attributed to the fading memory of the war on terrorism and the current focus on the conflict in Ukraine.

Anton J. Gunn, whose brother Cherone was killed in the bombing, expressed his disappointment at the lack of progress. He highlighted that there has never been a criminal case in the history of the United States that has taken 20 years to prosecute. Gunn, who visited Guantánamo Bay with his father in 2012, described the situation as demoralizing and emphasized his desire to move past procedural motions and finally get to the trial.

Denise D. Woodfin, a retired Navy lieutenant commander who survived the attack, stressed the importance of having someone represent the fallen sailors in court. She attended the hearings in 2011 when the prisoner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was formally charged. Woodfin has returned multiple times to honor the dead, especially those who died after the bombing. Despite the slow progress, she finds solace in the solidarity of coming back to the military base and being surrounded by soldiers who serve as chaperones.

Al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian citizen, is accused of being the mastermind behind the bombing. Prosecutors argue that he worked closely with Osama bin Laden and played a key role in purchasing explosives for the attack. Defense lawyers, on the other hand, dispute the reliability of the testimony against al-Nashiri and challenge the confessions he made after being tortured by the CIA. The case has been further complicated by the question of whether torture has tainted the evidence, causing delays in the trial process.

The families of the victims have been deeply affected by the prolonged proceedings. Many of the original core group of military retirees who would attend the hearings have passed away without seeing the trial. The loss of these family members has only intensified the families’ desire for justice and a resolution to the case. Despite the challenges and setbacks, they continue to attend the hearings, determined to see the trial through to the end.


The current judge in the case is expected to make important decisions on pretrial issues this summer before retiring. The next judge will have the task of guiding the case towards trial, with the hope that justice will finally be served for the victims of the Cole bombing..

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