By Karissa Minn
The parents of a Rowan County sailor killed in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole say they hope the refiling of charges against the alleged planner of the attack means someone will finally be held accountable.
Ronald Francis, the father of fallen sailor Lakeina Francis of Woodleaf, hesitated to react to the news Thursday. He said the charges have been dropped before and could be again.
After all, it took nearly 11 years just to get to this point.
“I’m going to wait until they have a court date to go to trial,” Ronald said. “Then, we’ll know that it’s for real.”
Military prosecutors refiled terrorism and murder charges Wednesday against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the suspected coordinator of the USS Cole bombing. According to the Associated Press, it is the first case to move forward since President Barack Obama ordered military trials to resume at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The attack claimed the lives of 17 U.S. sailors, including 19-year-old Lakeina, who would have turned 30 on June 7. It wounded another 40.
“I do, as a mother, want justice,” said Sandra, Lakeina’s mother. “I’m just glad somebody will be held accountable.”
Al-Nashiri was charged with the planning and preparation for the USS Cole attack that blew a hole in the warship. The charges were referred to the Convening Authority for Military Commissions, which presides over the war crimes tribunals at the U.S. base in Cuba.
Al-Nashiri previously faced charges in the bombing, but they were dropped in 2009 as the Obama administration revamped the military commission process. Legal proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, where he had been held since 2006, were suspended until March.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced in November 2009 that al-Nashiri, along with other detainees, would be tried by a military commission. But in August of last year, prosecution was stalled again.
Now that charges have been re-filed, prosecutors have requested the death penalty.
“For a person who does a crime of that magnitude, without a shadow of a doubt that he did it, then (the death penalty) is just,” Ronald said. “That’s the only thing we want — all the Cole family members want — is justice.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
By Karissa Minn