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Judge may drop 1 of 5 defendants from 9/11 case at Guantanamo to avoid further delay


MIAMI — One of five men facing trial by military commission for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks may be dropped from the case so proceedings can resume at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A military judge says he wants to reconsider whether Ramzi Binalshibh should be tried separately from his co-defendants as the first order of a business at a hearing at the base on Feb. 9. His updated scheduling order was issued Wednesday.

Army Col. James Pohl was going to sever Binalshibh from the case in August because of the "inordinate delays," caused first by questions about whether the 42-year-old defendant is mentally competent to stand trial and later by the revelation that the FBI had interrogated a member of his defense team, creating a potential conflict of interest.

Prosecutors persuaded the judge to hold off on severing his case from his co-defendants. The prosecution argued in a motion that all five took part in recruiting, training and aiding the hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, plot and that holding separate trials would be expensive, could make it harder to try them and would "inflict a massive emotional toll on the thousands of victims' families."

Pohl said in his order he wants to re-visit the issue of severance because questions about the potential conflict, which the prosecution said would be resolved by the fall, have prevented the court from hearing motions on other pretrial legal issues.

All five defendants face charges that include terrorism and murder and could get the death penalty if convicted. They were arraigned in May 2012 but the start date for a trial has not been set.

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