The military judge overseeing the Sept. 11 case at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba delayed litigation deadlines again on Friday, postponing the start of the trial of the accused mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accused co-conspirators until after the 20th anniversary of the attacks next year.
The death penalty case, in its eighth year of pretrial proceedings, was already complicated by its remote location, procedural issues, legal challenges and the control of classified evidence by different elements of the U.S. government.
“The coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic has continued to worsen,” the judge, Col. Douglas K. Watkins of the Army, wrote in a two-page order that extended deadlines for another 30 days, for a total of 300 days of delay since the start of the pandemic.
Based on the timetable toward trial set by a previous judge, the selection of the military officers for the jury will now start on Nov. 7, 2021, at the earliest.
The pandemic has paralyzed much of the work of the court, whose participants commute from the mainland to the military commissions courtroom in Cuba for each session. The last hearing in the case was held in February.
The pandemic has also forced cancellation of all hearings in the case, which recessed in the midst of the judge taking extensive testimony on the question of whether key interrogations of the prisoners at Guantánamo in 2007 are inadmissible at trial because they are tainted by C.I.A. torture.