Guantanamo war court resumes under Trump

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base: They spent seven years locked up under George W Bush, then eight more under Barack Obama — yet the five alleged terrorist plotters were convicted of nothing. Now, the so-called “9/11 Five” are starting the next phase of their Guantanamo Bay legal odyssey under the presidency of Donald Trump. Accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 attacks, the men are due in a military courtroom Wednesday, the first time the secretive tribunal has been in session since Trump was sworn in less than a week ago.

Renewed focus is on the military prison and the glacial legal process after Trump famously vowed while campaigning that he would load Guantanamo with “bad dudes,” and said it would be “fine” if US terror suspects were sent there for trial. It’s been nine years since the United States first charged the 9/11 Five with plotting the September 11 attacks and killing nearly 3,000 people.

A multitude of procedural and legal problems, exacerbated by the logistical challenge of hosting a court in Guantanamo, have slowed the case to a crawl. “We are just as determined as ever to try these individuals under the rule of law,” lead prosecutor Brigadier General Mark Martins said. “We will do that — however long it takes.” The general said the government will be ready to begin jury selection in March 2018, but defense lawyers scoff at the idea, saying 2020 is more realistic.

The defendants are alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali — Mohammed’s nephew — and Mustapha al-Hawsawi. One of Obama’s first acts as president was to issue an order to close Guantanamo’s jail, but he failed to do so in the face of Republican opposition and the reluctance of US allies to take in the detainees. The remaining prison population is now 41, down from 242 when he took office.

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