News Column

Hurricane Delays War Court at Guantanamo

Oct. 25, 2012

Carol Rosenberg

Hurricane Sandy swept through this remote base Thursday, ripping boats from their berths, cutting power to all but emergency facilities and forcing closure of the Pentagon's war crimes tribunal.

Residents were confined to their quarters until noon Thursday even as power was restored to some sections after a night of cascading blackouts.

Navy police and power workers were the only people seen on the streets of this 45-square-mile base in southeast Cuba throughout the morning.

There was no immediate word on what, if any damage, was suffered at the seafront detention center that houses 166 foreign men as war on terror prisoners.

No injuries were reported, said base spokeswoman Kelly Wirfel, adding the base hospital never lost power throughout the storm.

The hospital compound, in fact, was visibly lit throughout the night even as the rest of the base was dark and a portion of the U.S.-run fence-line opposite Cuban-controlled territory could no longer be seen.

Also, the military canceled an 11 a.m. court session in the USS Cole terror trial due to unspecified damage at the $12 million war court complex which, like the hospital, can run on generator power.

The 11 a.m. hearing at Camp Justice was scheduled for later than usual, to give staff time to return to the evacuated compound after the storm. But the facility remained off limits throughout the morning.

It was not immediately known if the hearing would be held later in the day or on Friday, said Army Cpt. Jennifer Palmeri, who had no details on the scope of the damage.

The Pentagon built the compound of tents, trailers and a state-of-the-art eavesdropping-proof courthouse on an abandoned airstrip overlooking Guantanamo Bay for the Sept. 11 and Cole case war crimes tribunals. Both are death-penalty trials.

Sandy also cut some telephone and Internet service at the base, along with the electricity. Workers were still assessing the scattered damage across the base late Thursday morning, Wirfel said.

The storm washed away a pier and several pontoon and sailboats at a recreational marina behind guest housing.

Source: (c)2012 The Miami Herald Distributed by MCT Information Services

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