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US seeks right to exclude 9/11 defendants from some pretrial hearings at Guantanamo

Prosecutors in the Sept. 11 war crimes case at Guantanamo are asking a judge to allow secret pretrial hearings that would exclude even the defendants.

Justice Department attorney Joanna Baltes says U.S. law would allow hearings without the defendants to protect national security. But lawyers for the five defendants say there is no legal basis to keep them out. Defense attorney David Nevin said defendants in death penalty cases must be allowed to attend all proceedings. Both sides agree they could not be excluded during the actual trial.

The question arose during the third day of a pretrial hearing. The judge did not rule on the issue Wednesday. But the same judge allowed a secret hearing with the accused in the USS Cole case on Friday.