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US wants quicker hearings for 9/11 suspects

Prosecutors ask military court in Guantanamo Bay to bring five alleged plotters to trial in September 2014.

Last Modified: 20 Aug 2013 20:59
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The five defendants were held in secret CIA prisons from 2002 until their transfer to Guantanamo in 2006 [Reuters]

The US government is pushing for an acceleration of preliminary hearings in the case of five alleged September 11 plotters as proceedings resumed in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Lead prosecutor Brigadier General Mark Martins told the court on Tuesday he hoped to see progress "this week" after prosecutors filed a motion calling for a September 2014 trial date.

Self-declared mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, wearing camouflage garb and his beard tinted with henna, appeared in the military court at the US prison in Cuba with his four co-defendants.

All face the death penalty if convicted of plotting the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, which left nearly 3,000 people dead. Preliminary hearings in the case began in May 2012.

"The current practice of being in court for five days approximately every six weeks is inefficient and will result in litigation that is unnecessarily prolonged, and does not serve the interests of justice," the prosecutors' motion said.

Defence lawyers countered, however, that their efforts had been hindered by a variety of factors.

'We can't handle discovery'

The hearings have been delayed due to storms and problems in retransmitting the proceedings from the US prison in Cuba to the Fort Meade military base outside Washington.

The current practice of being in court for five days approximately every six weeks is inefficient and will result in litigation that is unnecessarily prolonged.

US military prosecutors

David Nevin, who represents Mohammed, said internet problems were slowing down defence efforts. "We can't handle discovery correctly," he said.

Cheryl Bormann, lawyer for Walid bin Attash, called for the hearing to be suspended, saying her client was unwell. Walter Ruiz, who represents Saudi national Mustapha al-Hawsawi, cited his client's "neck condition".

"Please hear the difficulties we have... the situation has deteriorated," Bormann told the court, asking Judge James Pohl to look into the problems in attorney-client communications.

"When is it going to end?" Pohl asked.

In their scheduling motion, prosecutors have called for the trial to begin on September 22, 2014.

"Lots of work has been done," Martins said, urging the court to stick to the timetable set out by prosecutors.

"The government has provided approximately 185,000 pages of unclassified discovery to defence counsel for each accused, so that the accused may meaningfully confront the charges against them," Martins said late Sunday in a statement.

Defence lawyers countered that nearly 80 percent of the documents provided by the government were about the 9/11 attacks themselves and not about the conditions under which the accused have been detained.

"There is no justification for artificial deadlines and restrictions," wrote attorney James Connell, who represents Mohammed's nephew Abd al-Aziz Ali, also known as Ammar al-Baluchi.

The five defendants were held incommunicado in secret CIA prisons from 2002 to 2006, before they were transferred to Guantanamo.

The detainees' treatment has come under close scrutiny. Mohammed is known to have been subjected to 183 sessions of waterboarding, the technique of simulated drowning which has been decried as torture by rights groups.

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Source:
AFP
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