Lawyers for accused Sept. 11 attacks mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four co-defendants are seeking to postpone their Aug. 8-12 hearing at Guantánamo, noting it falls toward the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The trial judge, Army Col. James Pohl, set the date for the hearing in May and specifically ruled out an extension on grounds that it coincided with Islam’s fasting month. He noted in his order then that no defense lawyer at that point had raised objection to a hearing that coincided with Ramadan.
But the attorneys do just that in a June 21 filing currently under seal on the Pentagon’s war court website entitled “Joint Defense Motion for the Military Commission to Respect the Religious Observances of Enemy Prisoners under Common Article 3.”
Pohl is hearing motions in another Guantánamo case next week. But that hearing ends by July 19, before Ramadan starts. The 9/11 case pre-trial motions would be heard toward the end of Ramadan.
“The last 10 days of Ramadan commemorate the night God —Allah— revealed the Holy Quran to the Prophet Mohammed,” said James Connell, the Pentagon-paid defense counsel for Mohammed’s nephew, Ammar al Baluchi. “These 10 days are the most holy period of the Muslim calendar and are typically observed by fasting, prayer, and seclusion.”
The Sept. 11 prosecutor opposes delay in a separate motion, also under seal at the war court website.
Next month’s would not be the first Ramadan war court appearance by Mohammed and the four men accused of orchestrating, funding and training the 19 terrorists who hijacked the four aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001, killingly nearly 3,000 people in New York, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
The five men were brought to war court for hearings in September 2008, as Ramadan was reaching its conclusion that year on the Muslim calendar during a since-aborted Bush effort to try the men before a different judge, a U.S. Marine Corps colonel. Mohammed objected to the timing of that 2008 session during his appearance on behalf of the five man who face the death penalty if convicted at their capital murder trial.