Military Judge in 9/11 Trial at Guantánamo Is Retiring

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This report was manufactured in partnership with the Pulitzer Heart on Disaster Reporting.

WASHINGTON — The military services decide presiding in the Sept. 11 death penalty trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has scheduled his retirement for later this 12 months, in the most up-to-date blow to attempts to start off the extended-operating demo in 2021.

The judge, Col. W. Shane Cohen, wrote in a just one-site letter to the main war court docket judge that he was ending his 21 decades of Air Pressure assistance on July 1. Until a further judge is appointed quicker, he wrote, April 24 would be his past working day presiding in the situation versus Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and 4 other men who are accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed 2,976 persons in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.

The looming departure of the judge, coupled with a recent shutdown of authorized group obtain to the United States Navy base prison zone simply because of the coronavirus pandemic, solid a shadow on the prospective buyers of assembly the focus on get started date of Jan. 11, 2021. A new judge has to be decided on, and he or she will want time to go through the additional than 33,150-web site transcript of the case as perfectly as hundreds of legal filings, some even now awaiting rulings.

Colonel Cohen’s choice to go away the case also arrives as he has been hearing testimony — and has scheduled a lot more witnesses — in an ongoing set of hearings on the defense lawyers’ requests to exclude from the demo the F.B.I. interrogations of the adult men in 2007. The defense legal professionals say those interrogations are tainted by the torture the defendants endured all through their 3 and four several years in solution C.I.A. prisons.

Even though two psychologists who waterboarded Mr. Mohammed and developed the agency’s interrogation tactics as contractors testified previously this yr, their testimony has not however been accomplished.

In his letter, dated March 17, Colonel Cohen explained he was acting in “the most effective pursuits of my family and was not impacted by any exterior influence from any resource.” In an open up session of the war courtroom on June 17, Colonel Cohen advised a defense law firm that he considered “a court docket of this magnitude” required “some stage of continuity” that would “allow this situation to move forward and for some continuity in rulings by the military decide.”

Colonel Cohen, the 3rd judge in the situation, was the to start with to set a trial date and an aggressive listening to and demo program that would have necessary long stretches of time at the remote Navy base in southeast Cuba. In current hearings, he experienced started to propose that the trial by itself could start later than January 2021 and enhanced his demo time estimate to 12 to 13 months from his preliminary nine-thirty day period prediction.

The judge’s choice comes at a time of uncertainty about trial preparing throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Guantánamo this 7 days disclosed that a sailor there was the very first of its 6,000 residents to exam beneficial for Covid-19, the condition prompted by the virus.

Terry Rockefeller, who misplaced her sister Laura in the 2001 assault on the Earth Trade Center, claimed she was “outraged and deeply involved about the chance of even more hold off. Judge Cohen purported to be fully commited to looking at the 9/11 demo by to a conclusion.”

The prison about the weekend halted lawful meetings for all 40 wartime prisoners there.

All of the authorized team customers are based in the United States. Under a new policy, instituted in reaction to the virus outbreak, lawyers who obtain “mission necessary status” to consider a Navy air shuttle to Guantánamo ought to continue to be in isolation for two months at housing close to the airstrip right before remaining authorized to cross Guantánamo Bay to the site of the jail.

As of Wednesday, no prisoner had the virus, in accordance to S. Maria Lohmeyer, a Navy commander and a spokeswoman for detention functions.

She stated the guards and other detention center staff experienced prepared “for weeks” and rehearsed “for the chance of Covid-19,” including “scenarios that would call for isolation.” She did not offer details but mentioned the prison management experienced “implemented a layered defense that involves prevention and precautionary measures.”

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