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Guantanamo judge orders US to stop censoring 9/11 hearings

Judge James Pohl says the government cannot remotely censor pre-trial hearings for the suspects of the 9/11 attacks.

A courtroom sketch drawn on Monday shows five 9/11 attend a hearing on pre-trial motions at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba.
A courtroom sketch drawn on Monday shows five 9/11 attend a hearing on pre-trial motions at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba.
Image: Janet Hamlin/AP

A MILITARY JUDGE has ordered the US government to stop censoring September 11 pre-trial hearings from outside his courtroom.

Judge James Pohl said the government must “disconnect the outside feed or ability to suspend the broadcast” from outside his court.

Proceedings in the pre-trial hearings are broadcast to a press room, and in a room where human rights groups and victims families can observe proceedings, but only with a 40 second delay so that a security officer sitting next to the judge can block anything deemed classified.

The ruling today means censoring can go on, but it cannot be activated from outside the courtroom.

Thursday was the last day of the latest session of pre-trial hearings. The five defendants, including self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, were not present.

On Monday part of the proceedings were censored when the discussion touched on secret CIA prisons where the suspects were held and abused.

The judge said he was surprised and angry that the censoring mechanism was activated from outside the court, without his knowledge.

This must stop, Pohl said, adding that “the judge and only the judge” can decide what happens in his courtroom.

The 9/11 trial at Guantanamo Bay, on the south-eastern tip of Cuba, is not expected to start for at least a year.

The five men accused of plotting the suicide airliner attacks against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon face the death penalty if convicted. The attacks left nearly 3,000 people dead.

- © AFP, 2012

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