The military judge presiding over the Sept. 11 war crimes tribunal at Guantanamo ejected one defendant from the courtroom twice Tuesday for speaking out of turn, adding a bit of drama to an otherwise dry pretrial motions hearing at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
Ramzi Binalshibh, one of five Guantanamo prisoners charged with orchestrating the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, refused repeated warnings to stop trying to address the judge about what he claims are efforts by guards to keep him awake at night with banging sounds inside his cell.
But the judge, whose courtroom was repeatedly disrupted when the defendants were arraigned in May 2012, was having none of it. Army Col. James Pohl ordered troops to remove Binalshibh and place him in a holding cell.
Then the same scene repeated itself in the afternoon session, and the judge warned it would happen again if the defendant tried again on Wednesday. "If he is disruptive he will be escorted from the courtroom," Pohl told the lawyers for Binalshibh.
He also said he was concerned that the prisoner might shout out classified information, prompting courtroom censors to cut the sound. "I don't know what he'll say," he said.
Both removals occurred as the judge asked Binalshibh if he understood he has the right to be absent from the remainder of the pretrial motions hearing this week. The four other defendants also answered in the affirmative.
Binalshibh used the question as an opportunity to repeat claims that prison authorities use sounds and vibrations to keep him awake at night inside Camp 7, the high-security section of Guantanamo where he and the other defendants in the Sept. 11 case are held. Prosecutors say they have looked into the matter and were assured that no noises are being made.