ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. - The chief war court judge, Army Col. James Pohl, has assigned himself to preside at the death penalty trial of five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks and has set a provisional arraignment date for May 5 at Guantánamo, The Miami Herald has learned.

The rare Saturday hearing would meet a 30-day speedy trial deadline under the Military Commissions Act, but could be changed if defense lawyers seek a delay.

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Two war court sources said Pohl detailed himself Monday to the cases of alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four accused co-conspirators.

Pohl, currently the only military judge hearing cases at Guantánamo, is at the southeast Cuba base this week to hear pretrial arguments in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused in the bombing of the USS Cole. -- MCT