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Chief Guantanamo Judge Announces Early Retirement


The U.S. military judge overseeing the proceedings for the alleged mastermind of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks has announced his immediate retirement.

Defense officials said this week Judge Ralph Kohlmann is retiring early because he realized that the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants would not end before his planned retirement in April.

Judge Stephen Henley, an Army colonel, will take over the trial at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the U.S. military's decision to replace Kohlmann, accusing the Bush administration of trying to hurry trials before President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January. Mr. Obama has pledged to close the controversial prison.

Pentagon officials said there was no ulterior motive for the replacement, noting that Kohlmann discussed his retirement plans in open court in September.

Mohammed and the four co-defendants are accused of plotting the 2001 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people. Charges against them include murder, conspiracy and terrorism. They face execution if convicted.

The five suspects have been held for years by the U.S. government, first in secret CIA detention centers and now at Guantanamo. They are being tried in a military commissions process, which was created specifically for terror suspects.

At a pre-trial hearing in September, Mohammed questioned Judge Kohlmann about his views on religion and his knowledge of interrogation tactics and torture, claiming the judge could not be impartial. Another defendant, Ramzi Binalshibh, accused him of having a "Jewish name."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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