FORT MEADE, Maryland (AFP) – The U.S. government on Monday pushed for an acceleration of preliminary hearings in the case of five alleged 9/11 plotters as the proceedings resumed in Guantanamo Bay.
Lead prosecutor Brigadier General Mark Martins said he hoped to see progress “this week” as he presented a motion calling for a September 2014 trial date.
Self-declared 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — wearing camouflage garb and his beard tinted with henna — appeared in the military court at the U.S. prison in Cuba with his four co-defendants.
All face the death penalty if convicted of plotting the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, which left nearly 3,000 people dead. Preliminary hearings in the case began in May 2012.
“The current practice of being in court for five days approximately every six weeks is inefficient and will result in litigation that is unnecessarily prolonged, and does not serve the interests of justice,” the prosecutors’ motion, which was filed late Sunday, said.
Defense lawyers countered, however, that their efforts had been hindered by a variety of factors.
The hearings were delayed due to storms and problems in retransmitting the proceedings from the U.S. prison in Cuba to the Fort Meade military base outside Washington, DC.
David Nevin, who represents Mohammed, said Internet problems were slowing down defense efforts. “We can’t handle discovery correctly,” he said.
Cheryl Bormann, lawyer for Walid bin Attash, called for the hearing to be suspended, saying her client was unwell. Walter Ruiz, who represents Saudi national Mustapha al-Hawsawi, cited his client’s “neck condition.”
“Please hear the difficulties we have…. the situation has deteriorated,” Bormann told the court, asking the judge to look into the problems in attorney-client communications.
“When is it going to end?” Judge James Pohl asked.
“Lots of work has been done,” Martins said, urging the court to “stick to the outline” drawn up in the prosecution’s motion, which calls for the trial to begin on September 22, 2014.
“The government has provided approximately 185,000 pages of unclassified discovery to defense counsel for each accused, so that the accused may meaningfully confront the charges against them,” the prosecutors’ motion says.
Defense lawyers countered that nearly 80 percent of the documents provided by the government were about the 9/11 attacks themselves and not about the conditions under which the accused have been detained.
“There is no justification for artificial deadlines and restrictions,” they wrote.
The five defendants were held incommunicado in secret CIA prisons from 2002 to 2006, before they were transferred to Guantanamo.
The detainees’ treatment has come under close scrutiny. Mohammed is known to have been subjected to 183 sessions of waterboarding, the technique of simulated drowning which has been decried as torture by rights groups.