- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2008

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A military judge today denied motions to delay the arraignments of five Guantanamo detainees suspected of mounting the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In his ruling, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann said the military commission found that the interests of justice in the complex legal case would be best served by completing the arraignments on June 5.

“It is precisely because of the anticipated complexity of this case that it is important that the process get under way,” Kohlmann said in the ruling, which was obtained by the Associated Press.

Military lawyers had sought to postpone the first pretrial hearings for men charged with the 2001 attacks that killed almost 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, saying the government has made it impossible to defend them.

The highly anticipated arraignments are scheduled for June 5 at the remote U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The U.S. is seeking the death penalty for all five defendants, including confessed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Defense lawyer and Army Maj. Jon Jackson, who represents Saudi detainee Mustafa al-Hawsawi, said he was disappointed by Kohlmann’s ruling.

“Mr. Hawsawi has been held for more than four years without a hearing or access to a lawyer. Now he is being rushed into the courtroom after only two meetings with me, his lead counsel,” Jackson said.

Jackson said the facilities for defense preparation at the isolated tropical base are “completely inadequate for this type of proceeding.”

In his ruling, Kohlmann said concerns expressed by the defense regarding their working spaces was not a matter that justified a delay.

“It appears that progress is being made with regard to dealing with the logistic challenges associated with this case. It is likely that the lawyers’ tasks in this case are going to be difficult in several regards,” Kohlmann said.

The arraignments will likely precede a Supreme Court ruling on the legitimacy of the first U.S. war-crimes trials since World War II. The court is expected to rule before June 30 whether the 270 men held at Guantanamo have access to regular U.S. courts, which could undermine the military trials.

The Court declared a previous military tribunal system unconstitutional in 2006.

Associated Press Writer Andrew O. Selsky contributed to this report from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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