This article was produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
The military judge who oversaw the September 11 case in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, postponed the trial deadlines again on Friday and postponed the start of the trial of the accused mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accused co-conspirators until after the 20th anniversary of the attacks the next Year .
Already in its eighth year of trial, the death penalty case was complicated by its remote location, procedural issues, legal challenges, and the scrutiny of classified information by various elements of the US government.
“The coronavirus-Covid-19 pandemic has continued to worsen,” wrote the judge, Colonel Douglas K. Watkins of the Army, in a two-sided order that extended deadlines by an additional 30 days, since then a total of 300 days late Beginning of the pandemic.
Based on the trial schedule set by a previous judge, the selection of military officers for the jury will begin on November 7, 2021 at the earliest.
The pandemic has crippled much of the work of the court, whose attendees commute from the mainland to the Cuban military commissions courtroom for each session. The last hearing on the case was in February of Judge W. Shane Cohen, who a month later abruptly announced his resignation and took up a position as assistant district attorney in Salt Lake County, Utah.
The hijackers took control of four airliners on September 11, 2001 and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, killing 2,976 people. Mr. Mohammed, his nephew, and three other men are charged with organizing the conspiracy by training or selecting the kidnappers or helping them reach the US with funding and travel arrangements.
Apr. 18, 2020, 4:13 pm ET
To date, six judges have served on the case since the defendants were indicted in 2012. Judge Watkins, who is the Chief Justice of the Military Commissions and is based in Fort Hood, Texas, now presides over the presidency after two attempts to replace Colonel Cohen.
In October he hired Lt. Col. Matthew N. McCall of the Air Force to preside, but prosecutors protested that Colonel McCall was unqualified for serving less than two years as a judge in the military-martial-martial arts prerequisite Military commission. A recent court filing found that Colonel Watkins requested a written waiver of the requirement following the prosecution’s protest from Assistant Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist, who declined.
Previously, a New York City childhood judge Colonel Stephen F. Keane had been awarded the assignment but found himself within weeks of discovering “a significant personal connection with people directly related to the events of Sept. September were affected ”.
The pandemic has forced the cancellation of all hearings on the case, which deepened amid the judge who gave detailed testimony on whether key interrogations of Guantánamo prisoners in 2007 are inadmissible because of torture by the CIA.
The pandemic has made other aspects of preparation for the joint conspiracy process difficult.
One of the defendants, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, has not yet met his death penalty attorney who was appointed to deal with the case in April. Lawyer David I. Bruck has stated in a court case that it would take him 30 months to prepare for the trial after meeting Mr. bin al-Shibh.
One option would be to remove Mr. bin al-Shibh from the case and later try him separately, which the first judge did for a while in 2014 before turning around because prosecutors objected. Even so, the recent legal battle is postponing the start of any version of the case until November at the earliest.