Guantánamo

Sept. 11 defense lawyers seek delay, blame rats

BY CAROL ROSENBERG

crosenberg@miamiherald.com

A journalist walks past a row of tents used as media sleeping quarters in Camp Justice, the site of the U.S. war crimes tribunal compound at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in this image approved for release by the military Tuesday, July 14, 2009.
A journalist walks past a row of tents used as media sleeping quarters in Camp Justice, the site of the U.S. war crimes tribunal compound at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in this image approved for release by the military Tuesday, July 14, 2009. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rat droppings and mold are health hazards in the Guantánamo offices of the accused 9/11 mastermind’s legal team, defense lawyers said Wednesday in a war court filing that seeks a delay in this month’s pretrial hearings at the Navy base in southeast Cuba.

“The Naval Hospital at Guantánamo Bay has determined that no one should work in these assigned spaces,” said Marine Maj. Derek Poteet, military defense counsel for confessed al-Qaida operations chief Khalid Sheik Mohammed. “Defense personnel have complained about the mold, rats, and rat feces for more than a year.”

Military spokesmen did not immediately respond  to a request for an explanation of the health issue.

 Prosecutors oppose a delay in the Oct. 14-19 hearings, Poteet said. They propose that defense lawyers use a space inside a top-security trailer that the defense claims is too small to accommodate them.

The revelation is the latest potential setback to the proceedings, which were postponed from August when the Pentagon evacuated war court staff as Tropical Storm Isaac approached.

Poteet said two members of the Mohammed defense team went to the hospital ahead of the evacuation in August with respiratory, flu-like symptoms — an episode that prompted a base health team to conduct a survey of the defense work space, then declare it unfit.

The chief defense counsel, Air Force Col. Karen Mayberry, said Wednesday she has forbidden defense staff from working in their first-floor offices of the building in light of health reports. Remediation efforts are under way and scheduled to be complete Monday, she added.

Defense lawyers for the accused planner of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship off Yemen also work out of the first floor of the building, known as AV 29, but have already sought postponement of pre-trial hearings in that case because of other issues.

Prosecutors continue to work out of the second floor, Poteet said.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments