The defense for the main suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole, who goes before a judge for the first time next month in Guantanamo, wants him freed if he is acquitted, a document released Monday says.
Saudi-born Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al-Nashiri, 46, is set to appear November 9 at the military tribunal on the US naval base in south-eastern Cuba.
He allegedly planned and prepared the October 2000 attack on the US Navy destroyer in Yemen's port of Aden that killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 more.
In a document released by the Pentagon Monday, lawyers for the Saudi are asking if he is able to be "meaningfully acquitted" or "if at the conclusion of this proceeding, the United States intends to hold the defendant, even if acquitted."
The defense wants a response delivered at the hearing November 9 at which he was supposed to be charged.
"In a variety of contexts, officials in the United States, including the president, have suggested that no matter what the outcome of the trials in Guantanamo, individuals such as Mr Al-Nashiri will not be released because he is allegedly a terrorist," the attorneys' statement reads in part.
"If the government intends to hold him in perpetuity regardless of the outcome, the sentence of death is the only result that changes anything," they added.
"A trial, to be meaningful to society and the defendant, must hold the possibility of both punishment and reprieve for the accused," the defense lawyers stressed.
US military prosecutors also accuse Nashiri of plotting an attempted strike on USS The Sullivans in Aden in January 2000, and an attack on a French civilian oil tanker MV Limburg in the Gulf of Aden in 2002 that killed a Bulgarian crew member and spilled 90,000 barrels of oil.
It is the first new capital case to go to trial at Guantanamo's "war on terror" tribunal since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, and Nashiri's first public appearance since his detention seven years earlier.
According to documents released in 2009, interrogators submitted Nashiri to dozens of water boarding sessions.
Foreign governments and rights groups have condemned the simulated drowning technique as torture and US authorities have since prohibited the practice but water boarding was approved by Justice Department authorities at the time.
At a closed hearing in 2007, Nashiri said he confessed to the USS Cole bombing, which blew a 30-by-30-foot (10-by-10-meter) hole in the ship, because he was subjected to torture. -AFP