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Guantanamo judge says 9/11 trial begins in at least a year

FORT MEADE, Md. – The new judge presiding over the September 11, 2001 case in Guantánamo Bay said Monday that the trial of the five men accused of instigating the attacks would not begin for at least a year.

Judge Col. Matthew N. McCall, who took over the case last month, was holding his second week of pre-trial hearings at Naval Base Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after a delay of more than a year and half caused by the pandemic.

The timeline set by the judge on Monday would mean that the trial of the five men, whose mastermind accused of the conspiracy, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, would not begin until more than 21 years after hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade twin towers. Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Penn.

Colonel McCall was speaking on the objections of defense lawyers for two of the defendants, Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Lawyers questioned his qualifications to preside over a death penalty case because he had not read the documents and court record dating back to the indictment of the defendants in May 2012, including the transcripts of 33,660 pages.

They urged him to stay the proceedings until he is properly trained and is fully aware of the rulings of three previous judges in the case.

The judge responded that he had plenty of time and a plan to get up to speed, including taking a National Judicial College course on how to handle capital cases. Due to the pandemic, he will put it online, he said.

“At a minimum, we are at least a year away from the trial,” said Col. McCall, an Air Force colonel. He declared himself qualified by the regulations of the military commission, the Bar of the Air Force and the ethical obligations and “is not bound by a particular deadline to go to the trial”.

Colonel McCall is the fourth judge to preside over the Guantánamo court in the conspiracy case against Mr. Mohammed and the four other men who are accused of aiding in plotting the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon 20 years ago. .

He has only been a military judge for two years and was recently promoted to colonel, making him the youngest and least experienced of the judges who oversaw the case.

Cheryl Bormann, Mr Bin Attash’s lawyer, urged the judge last week to stay the proceedings until he has completed the course and is fully aware of the rulings of the previous three judges as a point starting to move forward.

Instead, the judge said, he made a plan to learn as you go, including holding meetings separately with each individual defense team and also with prosecutors so they could brief him on the cases. classified information. Since this is a national security case, the judge is responsible for ensuring that the prosecution’s decisions on what evidence can be provided to defense lawyers – and information withheld or redacted – does not disadvantage not the defense at trial.

A previous judge had set a timeline for the trial to start in January this year. But this plan has long been abandoned. At a minimum, based on the judge’s comments, jury selection would not begin until after the 21st anniversary of the attacks.

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