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    Guantanamo Hearing For 11 Sept Case Abruptly Ends

    Military guards escorting a detainee from his annual Admistrative Review Board hearing at the US Naval base and detaining center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on 21 June 2007. Photo (Cuban Files)
    A pretrial hearing in the 11 Sept terrorism case,  at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has ended abruptly ahead of schedule date because of the official statement announcing about medical issue involving the military judge. The military tribunal hearings that was supposed to take place against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 conspirators have been stalled for now after the judge was flown out for emergency, to under go an eye surgery. 

    At 7pm on Tuesday evening Keith Parrella summoned defence team, prosecuting lawyers and informed them that he was being flown out of the military base to the U.S. mainland for an urgent medical treatment. The Office of Military Commissions issued a brief statement that read: “Due to a medical issue impacting the military judge’s ability to work, the rest of the session is cancelled.”

    Detainees speak with U.S. military guards in Camp Delta 6 at the Guantanamo Bay 30/03/2010.
    Judge Parrella had been scheduled to hold a closed doors hearing on Wednesday 30 January and to take testimony from a former CIA interpreter at a clandestine detention facility where at least two of the five defendants had been held under what the government called its "enhanced" interrogation and detention program. Defense lawyers argued unsuccessfully through Tuesday to have the hearing remain open. The judge's departure was the latest of many delays in long-stalled proceedings against Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, who has portrayed himself as the mastermind of the 11 Sept, 2001, terrorist attack along with other four co-defendants.

    • The decision to close down the facility and transfer the detainees to other facilities including the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in the midwestern state of Kansas was reinforced during 2009 by former President Barrack Obama.

    Parrella was appointed as a judge for the 9/11 case last August, in taking control of whole case that has been dogged by false stats, suffered some procedural delays and controversy over the military commissions themselves. The defendants, accused of having orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Centre as well as the Pentagon and killing nearly 3,000 people, the first charged were formulated in 2008 against the defendants. But the case is still in its preliminary phase, with a trial not expected to begin before 2020 at the earliest. Much of the contention is testimony obtained from the defendants who went through a long periods of physically and psychologically tortures in CIA interrogation rooms known as “black sites” before they were flown to Guantánamo. Parrella’s fitness to try the case is being challenged in federal court by defence lawyers for failing to disclose the extent of prior relationships with certain members in prosecuting team. 

    On Monday one of the defendants, Ramzi bin al-Shibh – a Yemeni accused of arranging for some of the hijackers to go to flight school in the US and helping finance the operation – challenged Parrella’s authority to preside over the court. The defendant had raised a similar objection before, but Parrella appeared rattled by the challenge and said his attitude “could potentially put everyone in jeopardy” – a claim that surprised defence lawyers, who interpreted it as a threat to shackle the prisoner.

    On the same day, defence lawyers threatened to boycott proceedings over what they said was aggressive FBI questioning of a legal assistant who had left Guantánamo some time ago, Parrella heard opposing arguments over whether the testimony of a former defence interpreter could be heard in open court. Defendants had claimed they had seen the so-called interpreter at the “black site” managed by CIA personnel, it was confirmed he had worked for the CIA!  Defence lawyers have been seeking to question him on whether he had been CIA infiltrator. Parrella ruled that the hearing would have to be held behind closed doors, no open hearing! 

    The five were arraigned in May 2012 before a military commission on charges that include terrorism and nearly 3,000 counts of murder in violation of the laws of war for their alleged roles helping to plan and providing logistical support to the plot. They could get the death penalty if convicted and found guilty. Another trial date has not been set. The next pretrial hearing will be possibly in March at the same place.

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