By Carol Rosenberg The Miami Herald
A MiamiAir charter flight to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., from the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was forced to make an emergency landing at Miami International Airport shortly after noon Friday because of engine trouble.
The Boeing 737-800 landed routinely, and passengers were processed through Customs and Immigration before being rerouted to Andrews AFB.
The nearly full plane of 141 passengers carried attorneys, 9/11 victim family members, translators, journalists and others who had been in Guantánamo for hearings in the death-penalty trial of the men accused of planning the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
Among those on board were the chief judge of the Guantánamo war court, Army Col. James L. Pohl, the Pentagon’s chief war crimes prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, and Boise, Idaho, attorney David Nevin, the Pentagon-paid defense attorney for the alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
One of two pilots aboard the plane, Steve Joffrion, said the crew detected a “very minor” problem with one of the two engines after takeoff from the base in Cuba. They diverted the flight to Miami as a “strictly precautionary” measure. Hearings are held in a crude legal compound at Guantánamo with the Pentagon maintaining an air bridge of charter flights that bring in virtually everyone involved in the court but the accused, and their guards.
Jay Connell, attorney for alleged 9/11 plotter Ammar al Baluchi, said Friday’s episode a day after the war court went dark until April demonstrates the difficulties of the expeditionary justice system started by President George W. Bush then modified and kept by the Obama administration.
“Everything about working at Guantánamo is hard,” he said as he stood on line with hundreds of others to show his passport for re-entry into the United States from the U.S.-controlled corner of southeast Cuba.
The cockpit announced the flight was being diverted before noon, while flights attendants were serving a chicken and rice lunch to the forward portion of the cabin and the mixture of military and civilian passengers were watching Bourne Legacy.