Pentagon is building a SECOND secret courtroom at Guantanamo Bay to hold trials for suspected terrorists at the same time from 2023
The Pentagon is building a second secret courtroom at Guantanamo Bay to hold trials for suspected terrorists at the same time, as calls have grown for President Biden to shut down the controversial prison.
The new courtroom will exclude the public from the chamber, and permit two military judges to hold proceedings at the same time starting in 2023, according to the New York Times.
Smaller cases would be held in the new chamber, which will cost $4 million to build, while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks would be tried in the existing chamber, with a gallery for the public.
The Guantanamo Bay prison has become more and more secretive over its 20 years of operation, even as it costs taxpayers millions of dollars per year.
The Biden administration had signaled it aims to close the military prison in Cuba before leaving office, reviving an Obama-era promise.
Congress stood in the way of Obama’s effort by forbidding any detainee from stepping foot on the US mainland.
Guantanamo has reportedly cost U.S. taxpayers over $6 billion since its inception.
American taxpayers spend roughly between $9.5 and $13 million per prisoner, per year. The prison currently has 39 inmates. That’s compared to $78,000 spent per inmate at a ‘super-max’ prison in Florence, Colo., home to some of the highest-risk prisoners in the U.S.
The cost has risen dramatically over the years – a 2013 Defense Department report calculated the per-prisoner detention cost at only $2.7 million.
In recent years, officials at Guantanamo have forbidden photography of sites that were once routinely shown to visitors and restricted access for reporters to prison facilities.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks would be tried in the existing chamber, pictured above, with a gallery for the public
American taxpayers spend roughly between $9.5 and $13 million per prisoner, per year. The prison currently has 39 inmates
About 770 men and boys have been held at Guantanamo as war prisoners, with prison population peaking at 677 in 2003
In the prison’s current courtroom chamber, the public can view proceedings and hear audio on a 40-second delay, time enough for the judge or a security officer to mute the sound if they believe a suspect has said something classified.
The plan for the second courtroom was designed before Biden took office, the Times noted.
Even the first courtroom has earned criticism for lack of transparency.
‘I’ve observed trials in Mongolia that were more transparent than this,’ said James R. Hodes, a lawyer representing Encep Nurjaman, the lead defendant charged in two Indonesian terrorist bombings.
Two men, Sanad Yislam al-Kazimi and Assadullah Haroon Gulone Yemeni, one considered to be Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguard and one Afghan commander who fought alongside al-Qaeda, were approved for a transfer out of Guantanamo for rehabilitation in October.
Another 12 men could be eligible for release if the US State Department could reach an agreement with a receiving nation to impose security protocols, such as restricting their ability to travel abroad.
Meanwhile, another 12 are in the midst of military commission proceedings and 15 are held as ‘law of war’ prisoners, with no plan for release due to their alleged role in the 9/11 attacks.
About 770 men and boys have been held at Guantanamo as war prisoners, with prison population peaking at 677 in 2003.
The Bush administration, which opened the prison after 9/11, released 540 detainees, mostly repatriating them back to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration released another 200. Trump placed an effective hold on releases.