US judge lifts order that halted 9/11 case at Guantanamo

Guantanamo Bay detention center prison

Military officers stand at the entrance to Camp VI and V at the U.S. military prison for ‘enemy combatants’ on June 25, 2013 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. President Barack Obama has recently spoken again about closing the prison which has been used to hold prisoners from the invasion of Afghanistan and the war on terror since early 2002. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MIAMI — A U.S. military judge ruled Wednesday that pretrial hearings may resume for five men accused in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack after a delay over travel logistics at the Guantanamo Bay detention center was resolved.

Army Col. James Pohl lifted his own stay on proceedings issued in July, the latest in a series of procedural delays in the prosecution of the five suspects before a military commission for alleged roles planning and adding the attacks.

For years Pohl and other judges presiding over terrorism cases at Guantanamo had traveled across the bay from an airstrip to the courthouse in a small Coast Guard speedboat instead of a ferry used by most other visitors to the isolated base. But in June the detention center commander abruptly said they could no longer use the vessel, for reasons that were never made public.

In response, Pohl and the judge presiding over a separate case put future proceedings on indefinite hold. They said the change interfered with their attempts to avoid mixing with witnesses and other case participants and could jeopardize their effort to ensure a fair trial. They said they should have been consulted beforehand.

Pohl said in his ruling Wednesday that the military agreed to provide a small boat to transport the judges and their staff, resolving the issue in time for a pretrial hearing scheduled to last up to five days later this month.

The five men charged in the Sept. 11 case have been held at Guantanamo since September 2006 and were arranged in May 2012 on charges including terrorism and nearly 3,000 counts of murder in violation of the law of war.

They could get the death penalty if convicted. No trial date has been set.

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