[JURIST] A military judge on Wednesday halted proceedings in the 9/11 terrorism case due to a new Defense Department [official website] rule that forces judges to relocate to Guantanamo Bay. In December military commission judges were directed to move to Guantanamo at the request of a Pentagon legal official in hopes of speeding up litigation in the three active cases. The Defense Department’s interference has been met with controversy. Army Colonel James Pohl said in his 10-page ruling on Wednesday that the relocation order created “at least the appearance of an unlawful attempt to press the military judge to accelerate the pace of litigation and an improper attempt to usurp judicial discretion.” The ruling [text] halts all activity in the case unless the rule is rescinded. Lawyers of the men charged for the September 11 plot filed a motion to have the case dismissed because of the relocation order, arguing that it was unlawful influence.
The trial of the 9/11 terrorist [JURIST backgrounder] suspects has faced numerous delays. Last April Pohl suspended proceedings [JURIST report] following accusations that the FBI [official website] was spying on attorneys for one of the accused. Defense attorneys for admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh [JURIST news archives] filed an emergency motion with the court alleging that two members of the FBI tried to turn one of the defense team security officers into a secret informant. James Harrington [official profile], the attorney for al-Shibh, would not name the security officer in question but stated that he would have had “unlimited access” [Guardian report] to his clients’ files. Harrington argued that the FBI has created a potential conflict of interest and requested that the court conduct an independent investigation into the matter.