Technical Glitch Delays 9/11 Hearing at Guantanamo

The next court appearance of five men charged over the 9/11 attacks has been delayed until Thursday due to an Internet outage, the presiding judge said Tuesday.

The preliminary hearings at a U.S. military court in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba had already been pushed back so that the accused could observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and were due to run from Wednesday through August 28.

But the Internet failure prompted defense attorneys to ask Judge James Pohl for more time to prepare, and the motion to delay was granted. The hearings will now begin at 9:00 am (13:00 GMT) on Thursday, the judge said in his ruling.

The outage was caused by the derailment of a freight train in the suburbs of Baltimore, near the U.S. capital, which damaged fiber optic lines carrying Internet data from the U.S. naval base in Cuba, a U.S. military spokesman said.

All communications from Guantanamo Bay are first transmitted by satellite to the continental U.S. and then via fiber optic lines.

The lawyers for the accused hope to raise the issue of the alleged torture of their clients -- and the U.S. government's refusal to let them discuss the details.

Confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is on trial, along with his Pakistani nephew Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, also known as Ammar al-Baluchi; Mustapha al-Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia; and Yemenis Ramzi Binalshibh and Walid bin Attash.

The five face the death penalty if convicted for their roles in the terror attacks by al-Qaida militants in which hijacked planes were used to strike New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 2,976 people.

"The problem with the Internet access today is a good metaphor for problems at Guantanamo Bay," said Ali's lawyer James Connell.

"In the same way that we're dependent on the government for providing Internet services and every other kind of service, we're dependent on the government to agree to bring the witnesses that we request to Guantanamo Bay.

"So far, they've refused to do that and there will be motions about that this week."

Before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006, the five men were held in secret CIA prisons, where they were subjected to interrogation tactics which they say amounted to torture and were banned by President Barack Obama in 2009.

The details of the alleged abuses have been classified by the U.S. government as "top secret," prohibiting the defendants or their lawyers to discuss the specifics at trial.

This week's hearings are expected to help pave the way for the trial, which is not expected to take place for at least a year.

On May 5, when the defendants were formally charged, the men disrupted the proceedings by reading what looked to be a copy of the Koran, keeping their eyes fixed on the ground, or kneeling to pray.

Source: Agence France Presse

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