Tropical storm Isaac: 9/11 trials delayed as storm targets Guantánamo Bay

Tropical storm Isaac is forecast to hit Guantánamo Bay Saturday, prompting the judge in charge of the trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to put off proceedings. 

Shane T. McCoy/Department of Defense/REUTERS/File
Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of military police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in this 2002 file photo. Trials set to begin this week on the base have been postponed because of the approach of tropical storm Isaac. //Handout

The judge presiding over the military commission trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants has canceled six days of pretrial hearings at Guantánamo in the face of an approaching tropical storm and potential hurricane.

On Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center projected that tropical storm Isaac would pass directly over the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, on the southeast coast of Cuba, by Saturday morning.

Officials on the base ordered the evacuation of roughly 200 people, including lawyers and relatives of 9/11 victims who traveled to Guantánamo to watch the legal proceedings.

Judge James Pohl, a US Army colonel, cancelled the proceedings on Wednesday citing the approaching storm.

The hearings were originally scheduled to begin Wednesday morning, but Judge Pohl postponed that hearing for a day because a train derailment in Maryland had knocked out communications of defense lawyers.

The judge granted the earlier delay at the request of defense lawyers.

Wednesday’s action came in a two paragraph order. 

“Based upon impending weather conditions, the recommendation that all non-permanent party personnel depart the island, and a concern for the safety and welfare of all personnel, the sessions scheduled to begin 23 August are hereby canceled,” Pohl wrote.

“A new docketing order setting the next session in this case will be forthcoming,” he said.

Tropical storm Isaac is also on radar screen of the Republican Party, which is set to hold its national convention in Tampa starting Monday.

Early forecasts have suggested the storm may pass over Tampa. But it remains unclear whether such an early projection will remain valid in five days.

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