WASHINGTON -- The approach of Tropical Storm Isaac has prompted the delay of pretrial hearings for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged top Al Qaeda operatives -- set to begin Thursday at the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- and attorneys, legal staff and members of the media are being evacuated.
The storm, expected to hit the island this weekend -- and then possibly Florida by Monday, at the start of the GOP national convention in Tampa -- led Army judge Col. James L. Pohl to postpone the session citing "impending weather conditions, the recommendation that all non-permanent party personnel depart the island, and a concern for the safety and welfare of all personnel."
Pohl plans to reschedule the session in the near future, officials said.
The hearings are designed for the judge to rule on numerous key disputes in the capital murder trial for those accused of planning, financing and preparing for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The issues before the court center on whether a top CIA official who oversaw the waterboarding of Mohammed should be compelled to testify about the harsh interrogation technique and whether public comments by former President George W. Bush and members of his administration so prejudiced the defendants' right to a fair trial that the case itself should be thrown out.