Judge weighs multiple Guantanamo 9/11 trials

From left: Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Waleed bin Attash, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Ramzi Binalshibh - accused in the September 11, 2011 terror attacks. AP Photos

(AP) SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A military judge is considering whether to split off one or more of the defendants and hold separate trials for five Guantanamo Bay prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attacks, a lawyer for one of the men said Friday.

The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, proposed the change in a written order in part because of the difficulty trying to schedule hearings for five defendants and multiple lawyers at the U.S. base in Cuba, said James Connell, a civilian attorney for defendant Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali.

Pohl also questioned whether one trial for all five defendants would create a conflict with evidence that could help one defendant while hurting another, Connell said.

The judge's order is sealed. As part of the order, the prosecution was ordered to show cause why the cases should not be severed.

The Pentagon will not release the order until it has passed through a security review, said Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a spokesman for the Guantanamo military commissions.

"There are some very specific ethical constraints that prohibit the prosecution from litigating cases in the press," Breasseale said.

Previously, Connell had said he wanted his client's case severed from that of the others, who include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, and the prosecution wanted them all tried together. Both sides are barred by the rules from disclosing their wishes at this point and will be filing legal motions by the end of the month.

The five men were arraigned together on May 5 on charges that include murder and terrorism. They could be sentenced to death if convicted. The next pretrial hearing in the case is scheduled for June but lawyers for several defendants have requested a postponement.


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