GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A military judge brought a quick halt to the first session of the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal in 2017 on Wednesday because of the absence of a defense lawyer who broke her arm and couldn't make it to the U.S. base in Cuba.
Army Col. James Pohl postponed several days of hearings on 33 pretrial motions in the case of five men charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack until March.
The postponement of the first tribunal session under President Donald Trump had been sought by defense lawyers who argued that the proceedings could not go forward without the presence of attorney Cheryl Bormann, who fell and broke her arm over the weekend in Washington and returned to her home in Chicago for medical treatment.
Bormann is the lead attorney for Yemeni defendant Walid bin Attash, and her presence is required because she is the only "learned counsel," a lawyer with experience in a death penalty case, on his defense team.
Pohl rejected prosecution arguments to go forward with the session. The judge did allow them to hold a closed deposition, with the five defendants present, on Friday with Lee Hanson, a Connecticut man whose son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were killed on one of the hijacked planes.
The trial of the five prisoners by military commission, which combines elements of the U.S. military and civilian court systems, has faced many delays since the men were arraigned in May 2012 on charges that include nearly 3,000 counts of murder in violation of the laws of war, terrorism and hijacking.