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Judge’s health emergency causes cancellation of 9/11 hearing at Guantanamo

War-on-terror captives from two different cellblocks, separated by a fence, conduct communal evening prayers at the Camp 6 prison building for cooperative captives at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. This photo was taken through a closed window. U.S. Army soldiers reviewed this photo invoking Pentagon security restrictions and cleared it for release. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS)
February 02, 2019

The Pentagon abruptly ended a 9/11 pretrial hearing Tuesday because the judge in the case had an undisclosed health emergency, defense lawyers said Tuesday.

Marine Col. Keith Parrella had planned to hear closed-court testimony from a former CIA interpreter on Wednesday, handle other Sept. 11 trial business and return with war court personnel to Washington on Saturday.

Court personnel declined to describe Parrella’s health emergency, citing privacy. But the abrupt recess presented another pretrial delay in efforts to try the five men accused of plotting al-Qaida’s Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed 2,976 people in New York, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. The next hearings are scheduled for late March.

The judge was expected to be airlifted from the remote base late Tuesday. Parrella’s health situation was not life-threatening, but required emergency surgery, said defense attorney Jay Connell.

Parrella, who is in his mid-40s, got the death-penalty case in August and has held just three hearings. He replaced now-retired Army Col. James L. Pohl, who presided on the pretrial hearings from arraignment in May 2012. It is uncertain how long Parrella is to serve on the case. The 24-year career Marine officer, who has served as a military judge for more than two years, was selected to assume the post of commander of Marine forces responsible for embassy security worldwide in the summer, a position that’s considered a plum assignment.

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“Due to a medical issue impacting the military judge’s ability to work, the rest of the session is canceled,” war court spokesman Ron Flesvig said in a statement Tuesday night.

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© 2019 Miami Herald

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