Military trials for the 9/11 masterminds, including lead terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, have been indefinitely frozen after U.S. military officials overseeing the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base rejected demands by the case's judge that he be provided a private speed boat for travel across the island.
Army Col. James Pohl, the military judge overseeing the long running pre-trial hearings for the alleged 9/11 masterminds, canceled upcoming hearings in the case after Gitmo prison commanders declined to provide him with a separate speed boat to enable his secluded travel across the island, according to court documents first reported by the Miami Herald.
Court hearings over the USS Cole terror bombing also have been halted for similar reasons.
The judges in both cases maintain that they need these private boats in order to avoid co-mingling with prosecutors, lawyers, and families of the 9/11 victims.
Judges had enjoyed this privilege until recently, when Rear Adm. Edward Cashman, the prison camp's current commander, revoked the service, citing monetary restraints and "ethical considerations" of such a service.
Judges overseeing proceedings in the 9/11 trials have gone to great lengths to avoid co-mingling with reporters, lawyers, and others who travel to the island for the hearings. However, this had proven complicated, given the lack of space on the island and limited dining and shopping facilities.
Prosecutors in the 9/11 hearings urged Judge Pohl to reconsider his decision to halt the hearings, but Pohl demurred.
"The U.S. government is still getting him to his courtroom and his office," Deputy Chief Prosecutor Army Col. Robert Moscati was quoted as saying by the Herald. "We don't see the issue of commingling in the same way as the judge."
Defense lawyers also have expressed outrage over the move.
Walter Ruiz, an attorney representing accused 9/11 architect Mustafe al Hawsawi, chided Pohl and further delays in a proceeding that has dragged on for years and hit multiple hurdles, including over classified material and accusations the U.S. government conducted a spy operation on defense lawyers.
"Of all the issues that have been presented that truly raise meaningful threats to fundamental fairness and due process, he chooses to take a position on his boat," Ruiz was quoted as saying.