The Guantano Bay detention facility in Cuba
The Guantano Bay detention facility in Cuba. — File Photo by AFP

WASHINGTON: The self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 terror attacks has lost an appeal citing rats and mold as a reason to delay his court appearance on Monday, a defense lawyer said.

Judge James Pohl's decision was still sealed on Thursday, three days before the hearing in question, but lawyer James Connell said he had received word by mid-afternoon.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's “emergency motion to delay October hearings — due to defence offices deemed unsafe due to the presence of hazardous mold, rodents and rodent feces — was denied,” announced Connell, defence lawyer for one of the five men accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The new series of preliminary hearings for the five men is scheduled to begin on Monday at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The hearings had already been postponed so that the defendants could observe the holy month of Ramazan and were then pushed back a day when a derailed freight train in the US state of Maryland caused an Internet outage at the base. They were delayed once more due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

This time, it was Mohammed's lawyers who had asked for the delay, saying the offices they were provided were “not habitable due to extensive, ongoing and serious health hazards presented by exposure to hazardous mold, airborne particulates, rodents, rodent feces and other significant matters.”

According to their request, filed in early October, the decaying body of a dead rat was removed from the ceiling on September 25, and, the month before, several large rats were removed, causing rat feces to drop into the workspace.

The defense team said the uneasy work conditions left them unable to adequately prepare for the hearing.

Soon after their motion was filed, Pohl said he was astonished these offices had been designated for the lawyers when a team of air quality and mold inspectors had recommended they not be used.

He ordered the offices to be repaired or another “decent workspace” be provided.

As a result, the vents and the offices were cleaned, disinfected and re-inspected by a Guantanamo hospital team, which re-authorised them to be used, a base spokesman said.

Mohammed is awaiting trial along with his Pakistani nephew Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, also known as Ammar al-Baluchi, Mustapha Ahmed al-Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia and Yemenis Ramzi Binalshibh and Walid bin Attash.

The five men face the death penalty if convicted for their roles in the 2001 attacks by al Qaeda militants in which hijacked planes were used to strike New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 2,976 people.

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