By Tyler Pager
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL STATION, Cuba — An order to relocate military judges to Guantanamo will not immediately delay the trial of the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, though it is slowing down the trial of 9/11 terror suspect Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
Army Col. James Pohl, the judge for the 9/11 trial of Mohammed, said he would not go ahead with the trial until the order is rescinded.
But Air Force Col. Vance Spath, the judge presiding over the trial of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the suspect in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, said Pohl’s decision has no bearing on al-Nashiri’s case.
The 9/11 trial consists of the prosecution of Mohammed, the accused planner behind the terrorist attacks, and four other co-conspirators.
Retired Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary, the civilian responsible for convening military commissions, ordered the military judges to move to Guantanamo in Cuba in an effort to speed up the trials.
The trials have not yet begun. Pretrial hearings are still being conducted.
Al-Nashiri has been held in Guantanamo since in 2006, accused of multiple war crimes related to the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, resulting in the deaths of 17 Americans. He is also one of five high-level detainees named in the Senate’s 2014 CIA torture report as having been subjected to torture and interrogation methods, including waterboarding and rectal feeding.
The defense team for al-Nashiri has argued Ary’s order is unlawful influence on the trial.
Ary testified via video conferencing Wednesday, explaining the relocation order was an effort to make the judges more accessible and address resource constraints.
Richard Kammen, a defense lawyer, said Ary does not have the authority speed up the trial. He argued Ary was acting as a “super convening authority.”
“You see your role as somewhat different than the traditional convening authority,” Kammensaid.
Ary rebutted the “super convening authority” description, saying he only recommended the relocation order and Robert Work, deputy secretary of defense, enacted it.
“You certainly did affect the status quo,” Kammen said. “The biggest criminal case in the history of America is on hold.”
Kammen also asked Ary whether he discussed the pace of litigation of the military cases during his meetings with Pentagon officials when he was hired last October. Ary said he did not recall talking about it.
However, after Ary’s testimony, the defense called on Billy Little, deputy chief defense counsel, who testified that Ary did discuss the pace of litigation in an meeting last October. Little described the gist of Ary’s comments on the pace of litigation as “resourcing with an eye toward moving the cases forward.”
The defense asked to hear additional testimony on the unlawful influence from the Judge Advocate Generals of the Air Force, Army and Navy.