Military judge halts Sept. 11 trial preparation at Guantánamo

Miami HeraldDecember 19, 2013 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- The military judge froze all pretrial proceedings in the Sept. 11 case on Thursday and ordered a mental-health examination of alleged plotter Ramzi bin al Shibh.

Army Col. James L. Pohl, the judge, ordered the evaluation to determine if Bin al Shibh is competent to stand trial. Pohl had four times in two days this week ejected the Yemeni captive from his courtroom for being disruptive and complaining that guards were subjecting him to sleep deprivation through noises and vibrations at his secret prison lockup.

Wednesday, the Yemeni called the Army colonel now serving as the Guantánamo prison warden “a war criminal.”

Case prosecutor Clay Trivett announced the request for the examination, on behalf of the government, but argued briefly that certain aspects of the pretrial hearings in the complex, five-man conspiracy case could go forward. Defense lawyer James Harrington opposed the examination but said, once ordered, the proceedings must come to a standstill.

The judge agreed. Pohl clarified with the prosecution that the issue was strictly limited to Bin al Shibh’s current competency to stand trial, not whether he was mentally competent at the time of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York Pennsylvania and ata the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Pohl said he would keep a Feb. 10-14 hearing in the 9/11 case on the war court schedule in case the military mental health panel assigned to determine Bin al Shibh’s competency completes its examination and report.

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