FORT MEADE, Md. — A military judge put a Guantanamo prisoner charged in the Sept. 11 attacks back on the same trial schedule as his four co-defendants Wednesday after hearing arguments about issues that have bogged down the case for months.
Army Col. James Pohl granted a government motion to reconsider his July 24 order severing the case of Ramzi Binalshibh (RAM’-zee bin-al-SHEEB’) of Yemen from those of the other defendants. Pohl said he might reinstate the severance order if issues pertinent only to Binalshibh continue to hold up the larger case into next year.
Those issues include Binalshibh’s desire to have officials look into what he says is a pattern of mistreatment at the hands of guards inside Camp 7, the secret section of the prison where he is held. He has alleged that he has been subjected to sounds and vibrations intended to prevent him from sleeping, allegations the military has denied.
Binalshibh was subjected to sleep deprivation while in CIA custody before being taken to Guantanamo.
Defense attorney James Harrington said the alleged harassment was behind Binalshibh’s past disruptive behavior in court. The defendant, accused of organizing the Hamburg, Germany, cell of the Sept. 11 hijackers, has had outbursts that prompted the judge to have him ejected from a September 2013 hearing.
He sat quietly and shuffled papers during Wednesday’s hearing, wearing a white robe and Arab headdress.
Other issues involving Binalshibh include his mental capacity to stand trial and a potential conflict of interest that has arisen over FBI questioning of members of his defense team.
Harrington said severing Binalshibh’s case would allow the larger case to proceed more quickly, hastening closure for families of the 2,976 people killed in the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks.
Prosecutor Clayton Trivett Jr. called that assertion, “the most offensive thing to date to come from that side of the room.”
Harrington countered that the prosecution may advocate for the families, “but it also doesn’t mean that issue is sacrosanct, that we can’t mention it and say something about it.”
Pretrial proceedings resume Thursday for all five defendants.
Wednesday’s hearing at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was shown on closed-circuit video at Fort Meade, Maryland, near Baltimore.
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