New Delhi: The new judge presiding in the 9/11 terrorist attack case at Guantánamo Bay on Monday stated that the trial of the five men accused of plotting the attack will not begin for at least another year.
According to a report by the New York Times, judge Col. Matthew N. McCall, who took over the case last month, was holding his second week of pretrial hearings at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The pretrial hearings began after the Coronavirus pandemic led to a delay of more than a year and a half.
The timeline set by the judge indicates that the trial of the five men, including the accused mastermind of the plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, would not begin until more than 21 years after the deadly attacks were witness, the report stated.
The update comes as the world recently recalled the horror of the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath on the 20th anniversary. 20 years ago, the hijacked jetliners had crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Penn in an attack that changed world politics.
Colonel McCall was ruling on objections by defense lawyers for two of the defendants, Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh who questioned his qualifications to preside in a death-penalty case as he had not read the filings and court record going back to the arraignment of the defendants in May 2012, including the 33,660-page transcript, the NYT reported.
The defense lawyers urged the judge to suspend proceedings until he was properly trained and fully acquainted with the rulings by three previous judges in the case, it informed.
The judge in his response said that he had enough time and a plan to get up to speed.
“At a minimum we are least one year away from trial,” the New York Times quoted Colonel McCall, an Air Force colonel, as saying.
He also declared himself qualified by military commission regulations, Air Force bar, and ethical obligations and “not bound by a particular timeline to get to trial.”
Colonel McCall is the fourth judge to preside at the Guantánamo court in the conspiracy case against the five accused of helping to plot the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon.
He has been a military judge for only two years and was recently promoted to colonel, making him the youngest and least experienced judge to have overseen the case, the news report informed.
Considering the comments, jury selection is now not expected to begin until after the 21st anniversary of the attacks.