Threat to delay September 11 proceedings in Guantanamo again
GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — A key defense attorney in the long-delayed September 11 attacks proceedings was in quarantine on Thursday after he was exposed to the coronavirus, potentially setting back efforts once again.
Guantanamo, a base of 6,000 residents that sits behind a Cuban mine, has managed to contain the virus outbreak through quarantines, testing and closures.
But defense lawyer Walter Ruiz was with his client, a Saudi prisoner, Mustafa al-Housawi, for 90 minutes on Wednesday when the guard abruptly ended the meeting. Mr Ruiz and Mr Housavi were wearing masks, but a medical officer ordered Mr Ruiz to be confined to his quarters because someone sitting next to him on a Navy plane on Tuesday was infected. Mr Ruiz, who had tested negative before and after his arrival, was to be tested again on Friday.
The issue is whether he will be released from quarantine in time for a closed conference Saturday in Guantanamo’s courtroom between the judge, Air Force Colonel Matthew McCall and case lawyers. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the five-member case and according to the law, Mr Ruiz must appear to represent Mr al-Housawi.
Colonel McCall, who is the fourth judge appointed to preside over the September 11 trial since 2012, has set nine days for most administrative hearings to begin Tuesday.
More than 100 people, including family members of the victims of the attacks, are due for the hearing on Saturday, the first time since the start of the pandemic. This will be the first court hearing since February 2020, in which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is accused of masterminding the conspiracy, and four others who have been accused in the attacks that killed 2,976 people in New York, Pennsylvania and New York alleged to be. Pentagon 20 years ago.
Before the pandemic, defense attorneys were calling witnesses to contest potential trial evidence as torture. Since then, the court-related travel was stopped and the judge presiding at that time suddenly retired.
Then, in July, Aadhaar recorded seven cases of the virus in a matter of weeks and added tests on travel days. Three people tested positive in the month of August, she said, resulting in at least 10 people being quarantined through contact tracing.
In line with Department of Defense policy, base health officials also increased mask requirements. Visitors arriving last month were told to wear them within six feet of other people at all times indoors and outdoors.
In court however, earlier this week, a Navy judge in a separate war crimes case waived the mask requirement and presided without masks for two weeks, and several legal teams followed suit. CMD. Judge Hayes C. Larsen called it “an individual decision” because there were “strong screening measures to bring everyone to the island safely”.
The inconsistent masking so irked another Capitals defender in the September 11 case, Cheryl Borman, that she sought emergency permission Wednesday night to remotely attend a new satellite court for Guantanamo proceedings near the Pentagon. The judge denied the request, noting that Ms Borman refused to testify that her client, Walid bin Atash, could be adequately represented, having essentially attended the video conference .
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