The last terror trial at Guantánamo Bay had been halted after the senior military judge dropped charges against a suspect in the 2000 USS Cole bombing, the Pentagon has said. The military charges against suspected al-Qaida bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri marked the last active war crimes case at the US Navy base in Cuba. The decision by Susan Crawford, the top legal authority for military trials at Guantánamo, brings all cases into compliance with Barack Obama’s executive order to halt terror court proceedings at the base. A Pentagon spokesman said Crawford dismissed the charges against al-Nashiri without prejudice. That means new charges can be brought again later. He will remain in prison for the time being.

“It was her decision, but it reflects the fact that the president has issued an executive order which mandates that the military commissions be halted, pending the outcome of several reviews of our operations down at Guantánamo,” the spokesman said.

The ruling also gives the White House time to review the legal cases of all 245 terror suspects held there and decide whether they should be prosecuted in the United States or released to other nations.

Obama is expected to meet families of victims of the Cole incident and the 9/11 attacks at the White House to announce the move today.

Seventeen US sailors died on 12 October 2000, when al-Qaida suicide bombers steered an explosives-laden boat into the Cole, a guided-missile destroyer, as it sat in a Yemen port.

The Pentagon charged al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian, last summer with “organising and directing” the bombing and planned to seek the death penalty in the case.

In his 22 January order, Obama promised to shut down the Guantánamo prison within a year. The order also froze all detainees’ legal cases pending a three-month review as the Obama administration decides where or whether to prosecute the suspects who have been held there for years, most without charges.

Two military judges granted Obama’s request for delays in other cases.
But a third military judge, James Pohl, defied Obama’s order by scheduling a n arraignment for al-Nashiri at Guantánamo. That left the decision whether to continue to Crawford, whose delay on announcing what she would do prompted widespread concern at the Pentagon that she would refuse to follow orders and allow the court process to continue.

Last year, al-Nashiri said during a Guantánamo hearing that he confessed to helping plot the Cole bombing only because he was tortured by US interrogators. The CIA has admitted he was among terror suspects subjected to waterboarding, which simulates drowning, in 2002 and 2003 while being interrogated in secret CIA prisons.