The alleged Saudi mastermind of an attack on the USS Cole in Yemen appeared in front of a military tribunal at Guantanamo Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who faces the death penalty, arrived wearing a gray vest over a white jumpsuit for proceedings expected to last three days.
He is being pursued for the bombing of the Navy destroyer in October 2000 that claimed 17 lives, as well as for the attack on French oil tanker MV Limburg that killed one person in 2002.
The session began with the consideration of a defense motion calling for military judge James Pohl, who also presides over proceedings against those accused of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, to recuse himself.
Nashiri's lawyers point to a judicial and financial conflict of interest, saying it prevents Pohl from making a decision that could displease the military bureaucracy.
Pohl is currently the only judge serving at Guantanamo and self-assigned himself to the proceedings against Nashiri and the five September 11 suspects.
Pohl -- the longest-serving judge in the US military -- was slated to retire on October 1, 2010, after 30 years of service, but continues to work on "special status" renewed each year, according to the Pentagon.
"Because Judge Pohl is on a retirement recall status and can have his contract terminated every year, and he serves at the pleasure of what I call the military bureaucracy, it's inappropriate for him to be the judge," Nashiri's defense lawyer Richard Kammen argued last month.
"There's a financial incentive for Pohl to rule in favor of the bureaucracy, Kammen added. "If (Pohl) issues rulings that displease the bureaucracy, his contract won't be renewed."
During the session, Pohl is also expected to address a petition by 14 media outlets protesting that the conditions surrounding Nashiri's arrest and detention be examined behind closed doors.
The defense also filed two motions, still sealed, dedicated to alleged mistreatment of Nashiri while he was detained in a secret CIA prison.
Nashiri's trial could start as early as November, making it the first to take place at Guantanamo since the reform of military tribunals by the Obama administration in 2009.
Militants riding an explosives-laden skiff blew a 30-foot by 30-foot (10-m by 10m) hole in the USS Cole, killing 17 sailors and wounding 40 more in Yemen's Port of Aden.
US military prosecutors also accuse Nashiri of planning an attack on a French civilian oil tanker MV Limburg in the Gulf of Aden in 2002 that left one Bulgarian crew member dead and caused a 90,000 barrel oil spill.