GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) -- A U.S. military judge turned down a request Monday to halt the latest round of Sept. 11 war crimes proceedings at Guantanamo Bay while one of five defendants recovers from a surgical procedure.
Army Col. James Pohl said defendant Mustafa al-Hawsawi may be excused from pretrial hearings in the case this week at the U.S. base in Cuba but that his apparently painful recovery is not an adequate justification to postpone the proceedings scheduled to run through Friday.
The prison doctor who oversees medical care in Camp 7, the maximum-security unit where al-Hawsawi is held with four other alleged members of the Sept. 11 conspiracy, testified that the Saudi underwent hemorrhoid surgery at the base Oct. 14 and has taken pain medication sporadically during his recovery.
Defense attorney Walter Ruiz said that al-Hawsawi cannot sit for prolonged periods in court because of what has at times been "excruciating pain" and that he has experienced side effects from medication that include dizziness and nausea.
The lawyer and others have long raised concerns about the health of the 48-year-old defendant. He had an undisclosed medical emergency while in CIA custody in 2003-2006 and was subjected to rectal exams with "excessive force," according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on its investigation into the U.S. clandestine interrogation program. Ruiz said that treatment was connected to his most recent surgery.
"This is not some show that we are trying to put on to delay these proceedings," he said. "Mr. al-Hawsawi needs additional time to recover."
Prosecutors urged the judge not to postpone a case that has been subjected to repeated delays. The five defendants were arraigned in May 2015 on charges that include terrorism, hijacking and nearly 3,000 counts of murder for their alleged roles planning and support the Sept. 11, 2001, attack. They could get the death penalty if convicted. A trial date has not been scheduled.