FORT MEADE, Md. (Reuters) - A Guantanamo Bay court went into closed pre-trial session on Wednesday to hear why a Yemeni Sept. 11 suspect should be allowed to replace a lawyer in the slow-moving death penalty case.
Judge Army Colonel James Pohl ordered the closed session with only the defendant, Walid bin Attash, and his lawyers present.
“At that time I will discuss with Mr. bin Attash directly what good cause there is” to replace civilian lawyer Cheryl Bormann, Pohl said.
The issue of bin Attash’s legal representation has stalled the pre-trial hearings involving him and four others charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Hearings resumed last week after 18 months of delay over an FBI investigation because of a security breach.
Bin Attash had asked to defend himself in the trial at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying he did not trust Bormann.
He also has indicated he is frustrated that Bormann and his military lawyer, Air Force Major Michael Schwarts, have not been able to resolve complaints about conditions at the U.S. base.
He clarified during Wednesday’s hearing that he wanted to replace Bormann, a Chicago lawyer and death penalty trial veteran who appears during hearings wearing Muslim garb, with another attorney.
Pohl said that based on his reading of regulations, he would be the one to decide whether she should be replaced, not Marine Brigadier General John Baker, the chief defense counsel.
Bin Attash is charged with hijacking, terrorism, war crimes and conspiring with militants who hijacked airliners and slammed them into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Almost 3,000 people were killed in the attacks.
The hearing at Guantanamo Bay for bin Attash, who also allegedly ran an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, was carried over closed-circuit television to a media center at Fort Meade, outside Washington.
Editing by Bill Trott