Muslim Holy Days Interrupts 9/11 Hearings at Gitmo

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A U.S. military judge agreed Monday
to postpone the next court hearings at the Guantanamo Bay prison
for five men charged in the Sept. 11 attacks to avoid a conflict
with the Muslim holy period of Ramadan.

The judge issued a short order postponing the next pretrial
hearings at the U.S. base in Cuba until Aug. 22-26 at the request
of all five defendants, said James Connell, a lawyer for one of the
accused.

The hearings had been scheduled to run from Aug. 8-12, which
fall during the last 10 days of Ramadan, a period in which devout
Muslims fast during the day and pray during the night. That would
make it difficult for the accused to participate in their defense,
said Connell, a lawyer for Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali.

"It's very difficult to pay attention to sometimes intricate
legal proceedings when you haven't had any sleep and you haven't
had any food," Connell said.

The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, denied a defense request not to
hold any future hearings in the case on Fridays, a day on which
many Muslims do not work and his order does not mention what will
happen if future hearings fall during the month of Ramadan. The
judge did not explain his decisions in the brief ruling.

Military prosecutors had opposed a defense motion to prohibit
any hearings on Fridays or during Ramadan, saying to do so would
eliminate about 20 percent of potential hearing dates from the
calendar and make it difficult to schedule court sessions at the
remote base.

The five defendants were arraigned at Guantanamo in May on
charges that include murder and terrorism for their alleged roles
aiding the Sept. 11 attacks, the worst terrorist attack on U.S.
soil. The defendants include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has told
authorities that he was the mastermind of the plot, and all five
could get the death penalty if convicted.

The judge will consider a number of procedural motions during
the next round of pretrial hearings in the case. The actual trial
is not expected to begin for at least a year.


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