This article was produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Crisis Reporting Center.
WASHINGTON – The military judge presiding over the September 11 death sentence The trial in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is scheduled to step down later this year. This is the latest blow to efforts to start the long process in 2021.
The judge, Col. W. Shane Cohen, wrote in a one-page letter to the judge of the Supreme War Court that he would end his 21-year service with the Air Force on July 21. Unless another judge is appointed earlier, April 24 is the last day he presides over the case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other men accused of orchestrating the September 11, 2001 attacks on those 2,976 people in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon were killed.
The judge's impending departure, coupled with the current closure of legal team access to the United States Navy Base Prison Zone due to the coronavirus pandemic, cast a shadow over the prospect of reaching the targeted start date on January 11, 2021. A new judge must be selected and he or she will need time to read the more than 33,150. Page transcript of the case and hundreds of legal acts, some of which are still awaiting decisions.
Colonel Cohen's decision to leave the case also comes because he heard testimony in a running sentence – and has started other witnesses from hearings on defense lawyers' requests to exclude the FBI from the interrogation process Men in 2007. Defense lawyers say these interrogations are tainted by the torture that the accused suffered during their three and four years in the secret CIA Prisons.
Although two psychologists who climbed Mr. Mohammed with water and designed the agency's interrogation techniques as a contractor testified earlier this year, their testimony is still ongoing.
In his letter of March 17, Colonel Cohen said that he was "in the best interests of my family and not affected by any outside influence from any source." In an open court-martial session on June 17, Colonel Cohen told a defense attorney that he believed that "a court of this size" needed a degree of continuity to "advance this case and achieve some continuity in decisions "from the military judge. "
Colonel Cohen, the third judge in the case, was the first to set up a trial date and an aggressive hearing and process plan that would have required long periods of time on the remote naval base in southeastern Cuba. In recent hearings, he had begun to suggest that the process itself could start later than January 2021, increasing its estimated process time from its original nine-month forecast to 12-13 months.
The judge's decision comes at a time of uncertainty about the preparation of the trial during the coronavirus pandemic. Guantánamo announced this week that a sailor was the first of its 6,000 residents to test positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Terry Rockefeller, who told her sister Laura in 2001 when attacking The World Trade Center that she was “outraged and deeply concerned about the likelihood of further delay. Judge Cohen claimed to be committed to completing the 9/11 process. “
The prison stopped the legal meetings of all 40 prisoners of war there at the weekend.
All Legal Team members are based in the United States. According to a new policy introduced in response to the outbreak of the virus, lawyers who have received Mission Essential status to take a Navy Air Shuttle to Guantánamo will have to be isolated in residential buildings near the area for two weeks Runway remain before they take Guantánamo Bay to the prison site.
According to S. Maria Lohmeyer, a naval commander and spokeswoman for detention operations, no prisoner had the virus until Wednesday.
She Told the Guards and Others The detention center staff had planned "for weeks" and "rehearsed the possibility of Covid-19," including "scenarios that would require isolation." She did not disclose any details, but said that the prison administration "introduced a multi-layered defense that includes preventive and precautionary measures."