A dispute over the use of women guards inside Guantanamo Bay prison's top secret unit has been put on hold until at least January.
Navy captain JK Waits allowed a request by lawyers for an alleged al Qaida commander to put off a hearing on the issue at the US base in Cuba. The l awyers representing Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi blamed delays collecting evidence.
US military judge Capt Waits left in place, over the objections of government prosecutors, an earlier order that requires the military to use only male guards to move al-Hadi at least while he considers whether to issue a permanent injunction.
Al-Hadi is facing trial by military commission at Guantanamo for war crimes. The case is in the pre-trial stage and a trial date has not been scheduled.
His lawyers say al-Hadi began refusing to meet them in recent months because the military had resumed including women in the escort teams that move him around the prison.
The briefs took it up with the judge, arguing that the issue was a violation of his Muslim faith, which bans physical contact with women unless he is related or married to them, and interfered with his legal representation on charges that could carry a life sentence.
The objection to physical contact with women guards has also been raised by several other prisoners held in Camp 7, a secret unit for about 15 men designated by the Pentagon as "high-value detainees" but has not yet come before a judge handling their cases. The US holds a total of 148 prisoners at the US base.
Military officials say it would amount to gender discrimination to ban women from taking part in the escorting of prisoners inside Camp 7. Prosecutors argued in a written motion that taking women out of the rotation would also "place additional strain and responsibilities" on the male guard force.