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Attorneys: Terrorism trials rushed to influence election

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  • NEW: Defense lawyers ask military appeals court to delay June 5 arraignment
  • Lawyers for five suspects say they have not had enough time to prepare defense
  • Judge in the cases previously rejected request to postpone arraignment
  • Prosecutors have not responded to the allegations in public or in court filings
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(CNN) -- Defense lawyers for five suspected al Qaeda members asked a military appeals court Thursday to delay their clients' arraignments because several of the attorneys have not received security clearances that would allow them to participate in the hearing.

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Lawyers for five September 11 suspects at Guantanamo Bay say the cases are being rushed for political reasons.

"I've never seen a military judge hold a hearing when all detailed counsel are not present," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, an attorney representing accused al Qaeda figure Ali Abdul Aziz Ali. "It is offensive to me the government would seek to proceed in a death penalty case without all detailed counsel present."

Mizer's client and four other defendants are being held at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on charges related to the September 11 attacks.

The defendants, who face the death penalty, are scheduled for arraignment June 5 after a judge declined a previous request to postpone the proceedings.

The defense attorneys have accused prosecutors of rushing their clients to trial to influence the November presidential elections.

The accusations were made in recent court filings obtained by CNN and in a statement from Mizer. Prosecutors have not responded to the allegations in public or in court documents.

The attorneys claim that they have had only a few hours to meet with their clients and that the cases are being fast-tracked for political reasons.

"Three months and 18 days is not enough time to prepare a defense in this death penalty case, even if the government had provided the defense with the attorneys, resources and facilities necessary to do so," Mizer said.

Ramzi bin al-Shibh is facing trial on allegations that he researched flight schools for the hijackers and acted as an intermediary between the hijackers and al Qaeda leaders.

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Walid bin Attash is accused of training two hijackers and assisting in the hijacking plan.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged September 11 mastermind, is also facing trial, along with Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who is accused of providing money, clothes and credit cards to some of the hijackers.

The process of bringing the suspects to trial before military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay has been fraught with difficulty.

A 2006 Supreme Court ruling struck down a form of the commissions and forced the Bush administration to create the military tribunals.

Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for the tribunals, resigned in October, declaring that they had become "deeply politicized."

A judge ruled this month that Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann improperly pressured prosecutors in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the former driver and bodyguard for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Davis testified against Hartmann in an April hearing over the allegations, which resulted in a judge ordering Hartmann to stay out of the case.

Hartmann denied that he felt pressure to get the trials under way before the presidential election because the cases involved September 11 suspects.

"This case is as important as any other case. The core function remains the same: fairness, justice, equity, transparency," Hartmann said.

"Each case is important to the accused. Each case is important to his defense counsel. Each case is important to the prosecution. Each case is important to the American public," he said.

Hartmann said Thursday that he could not comment on specific filings. In general, he said, the proceedings were unrelated to the "timing of any election or any political factor."

CNN's Carol Cratty and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

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