Military Names Air Force Judge for Guantánamo Bay 9/11 Trial. But There’s a Snag.

This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

WASHINGTON — Proceedings in the long-delayed trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks hit a new roadblock on Friday when the military assigned an Air Force judge to preside in the case, and war court prosecutors declared the officer unqualified for the job.

The chief of the military commissions named Lt. Col. Matthew N. McCall as the sixth judge to handle the death penalty case since arraignment in 2012. He is a deputy chief circuit judge for the Air Force at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia but has served less than two years as a military judge, prompting prosecutors to file a protest on Friday night.

“While respectful of Lt. Col. McCall’s military career and achievements, the government does not believe he is qualified to preside over this case based on the information available,” prosecutors wrote in a two-page notice.

The rules for military commissions trials require a judge at the war court to have been a military judge in one of the services for at least two years. The prosecutors added that if Colonel McCall did not recuse himself from the case on his own, they would seek to remove him.

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