The five accused masterminds of the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 failed to appear at a pretrial hearing Tuesday in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The defendants face nearly 3,000 charges of murder from the attacks on New York and Washington more than 11 years ago. The VOA correspondent covering the hearings in Cuba, Luis Ramirez, said it was not clear whether the five men were boycotting the session.
Defense lawyers have complained about the lack of access to their clients at the detention center within the U.S. naval base. They asked the presiding officer to grant an additional 48 hours' preparation time, so they could assess the suspects' conditions of confinement.
Meanwhile, an internal State Department memorandum circulating in Washington shows the senior U.S. official who was ordered to help arrange closure of the Guantanamo detention center four years ago is leaving his post, and will not be replaced.
Ambassador Daniel Fried had been trying to persuade other countries to accept Guantanamo inmates approved for release. Reporters who saw the internal memorandum say he is now the State Department's coordinator of sanctions against governments such as Iran and Syria.
Authorities in Washington have not commented on the reassignment.
Fried, a veteran diplomat and former ambassador to Poland, was appointed in 2009 to help carry out newly sworn-in President Barack Obama's pledge to close the controversial prison. Congress has since cut off funding to move any Guantanamo detainees to foreign countries, and also blocked any move to transfer the accused terrorists to the U.S. mainland for prosecution in the regular court system.
The Obama administration continues to voice support for the prison closure, but officials say the restrictions opposed by Congress have severely hampered those efforts.