- Five men charged with the 9/11 attacks appearing in public for first time in 3 years for military tribunal
- Mohammed repeatedly refused to answer judge’s questions
- Co-defendants delayed arraignment by kneeling in prayer, removing their headphones and reading a magazine
- Prisoner Walid bin Attash put in restraint chair for unknown reasons
- Victims’ families despair at men’s behaviour in court
Associated Press Reporter
13:47, 5 May 2012
17:20, 6 May 2012
The military court staging the trial of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners accused of the September 11 attacks was openly defied by the detainees on its first day yesterday.
Self-proclaimed ‘mastermind’ Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, wearing a turban and white tunic, refused to answer the judge’s questions.
Mohammed had been asked if he was satisfied with his U.S. military and civilian lawyers.
‘I believe he’s deeply concerned about the fairness of the proceeding,’ said his civilian lawyer, David Nevin.
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Captured: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants are to be arraigned at a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay on charges including 2,976 counts of murder
Proceedings were further delayed as one of the defendants, Waleed bin Attash, appeared while being restrained in his chair.
The restraints were later removed after defense counsel had given assurances that he would ‘behave’.
Another defendant, Ramzi Binalshibh,
stood up, then knelt on the courtroom floor and prayed for several
minutes as a row of guards in camouflage uniforms kept a close watch.
Mohammed and his co-defendants could all face the death penalty.
A courtroom sketch shows Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, right, and co-defendant Walid bin Attash attending the military hearing at Guantanamo Bay
Prayer time: Defendants refused to answer questions and repeatedly held up proceedings
They have been accused of seven charges stemming from the 2001 attacks that killed 2,976 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The devastation resulted in the U.S. embarking on a deadly, costly and ongoing global war against al Qaeda and its supporters.
The families of six victims killed in the attacks were at court witnessing the trial while other victims’ families were able to watch proceedings via close-circuit TV.
Seeking justice: Family members of the 9/11 victims pictured at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, where they came to witness the arraignment of five prisoners accused of plotting the September 11 attacks
A courtroom sketch shows victims’ family members observing proceedings from the gallery as a defense lawyer addresses the judge
‘It’s actually a joke, it feels ridiculous,’ said Jim Riches, whose firefighter son, Jimmy, died at the World Trade Center.
Mr Riches watched the hearing from a movie theater at Fort Hamilton in New York City, one of four U.S. military bases where the arraignment was broadcast live for victims’ family members, survivors and emergency personnel who responded to the attacks.
‘It’s been a mess for 11 years,’ Riches said as he stood in the rain during a break in the proceedings and described the atmosphere inside.
Justice: Tara Henwood-Butzbaugh with a picture of her late brother John Henwood at Guantanamo Bay and Clifford Russell (right) – his brother, Stephen Russell, was a firefighter who also died on 9/11
Intense interest: The media gathers outside the military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
And after his first glimpse inside
the military courtroom, he said, ‘It looks like it’s going to be a very
long trial. … They want what they want.’
himself a retired firefighter who worked digging up remains in the days
after September 11, said he carried with him dark memories of the days
after the attacks, and he hoped that if convicted the five men would be
‘I saw what they did to our loved ones – crushed them to pieces,’ he said.
60 people representing 30 families were in the theater at Fort
Hamilton, where the military provided chaplains and grief counselors, Mr
Defiant: A court room sketch of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who repeatedly declined to respond to a judge’s questions on Saturday
Causing havoc: Prisoner Walid bin Attash was put in a restraint chair for unspecified reasons during his arraignment, then removed from it after he agreed to behave
The other bases providing feeds were
Fort Devens in Massachusetts, Joint Base McGuire Dix in New Jersey and
Fort Meade in Maryland, the only one open to the public.
Fort Hamilton, Lee Hanson said he became deeply angry as he watched the
delays being caused by men he blames for the death of his son,
daughter-in-law and 9/11’s youngest victim – his granddaughter,
two-year-old Christine Hanson. All were aboard United Flight 175, the
second plane to crash into the twin towers.
Charged: Ramzi bin al Shibh, sketched here, and his four co-defendants all challenged the court with small acts of defiance before being formally charged with planning and executing the September 11, 2001 attacks
Ammar al Baluchi, also known as Ali Abd al Aziz Ali, appears to be arraigned with the four others – all facing the death penalty if convicted
They’re engaging in jihad in a courtroom.
Debra Burlingame, victim’s sister
‘They praise Allah. I say, ”Damn you!”’ said retired Mr Hanson from Eaton, Connecticut.
Several people who viewed the proceedings said they had little sympathy for the defendants’ complaints about their treatment, given the brutality of the deaths of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks.
Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and subjected to other measures that some have called torture.
brother was murdered in the cockpit of his airplane, and we will have
to stand up for him,’ said Debra Burlingame, who attended the viewing on
behalf of her brother, Charles Burlingame, who piloted the jet that
hijackers crashed into the Pentagon.
More than a decade after the attacks, she said: ‘We’re back in the game … and they decided to play games.’
In this courtroom drawing Khalid Sheik Mohammed consults defense attorney civilian David Nevin during a break in the hearing
She added: ‘They’re engaging in jihad in a courtroom.’
At Fort Meade, about 80 people watched the proceedings at a movie theater on the base, where ‘The Lorax’ was being promoted on a sign outside.
One section of the theater for victims’ families was sectioned off with screens, and signs asked that other spectators respect their privacy.
Once the proceedings began, the
spectators in the public section laughed at times, including when a
lawyer indicated Mohammed was likely not interested in using his
headphones for a translator and again, briefly, when one of the
defendants stood and the judge said that kind of behavior excited the
guards. But the crowd was quiet when the man began to pray.
Trial: U.S. war crimes tribunal compound, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where five men accused of orchestrating the September 11 attacks are facing arraignment today
Only about half as many spectators returned after a midday recess. Very few people were planning to go to the viewing site in New Jersey, a base spokesman said, and a reporter was turned away at the gates to Fort Devens in Massachusetts.
Six victims’ families chosen by lottery traveled to Guantanamo to see the arraignment in person.
Others ignored the viewing opportunity altogether. Alan Linton of Frederick, Maryland, who lost his son Alan Jr, an investment banker, at the World Trade Center, said he and his wife put their names in the lottery for the Cuba trip but weren’t interested in watching a video feed of the arraignment.
‘That’s just not the same as being there to me,’ Linton said. ‘Going to Fort Meade, it’s kind of like watching television.’
Whether they watched or not, relatives were frustrated that it’s taken so long to bring the September 11 conspirators to justice.
The Obama administration dropped
earlier military-commission charges against them when it decided in 2009
to try them in federal court in New York.
‘I would have preferred this would
have been in federal court,’ Blake Allison of Lyme, New Hampshire,
whose 49-year-old wife Anna was aboard the plane that hit the first
tower, told the LA Times.
‘The public needs to see how in the
world you could defend these horrible criminals, and how the prosecutor
will be able to prove to the country and the world this is a fair and
Atrocity: The suicide attacks by al-Qaeda militants in hi-jacked airliners killed 2,976 people in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Congress blocked the civilian trials amid opposition to bringing the defendants to U.S. soil, especially to a courthouse located blocks from the trade center site.
Mohammed and the others could be given the death penalty if convicted in the attacks that sent hijacked airliners crashing into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. The trial is probably at least a year away.
When it comes to justice, ‘it seems like it’s an afterthought,’ said Eunice Hanson, two-year-old Christine’s grandmother.
But New York police Detective Marc Nell said the viewing at Fort Hamilton more than a decade after 14 men in his unit were killed brought a sense of satisfaction, ‘a great feeling.’
‘It was a feeling of pride, being proud knowing that those guys were (being) brought to justice,’ he said.
Lawyers for all defendants complained yesterday that the prisoners were prevented from wearing the civilian clothes of their choice.
Mohammed wore a white turban in court; his flowing beard, which had appeared to be graying in earlier hearings and photos, was streaked with red henna.
Mohammed’s civilian lawyer, David Nevin, said he believed Mohammed was not responding because he believes the tribunal is unfair.
Pohl warned he would not permit defendants to block the hearing and would continue without his participation.
‘One cannot choose not to participate and frustrate the normal course of business,’ Pohl said.
In the past, during the failed first effort to prosecute them at the U.S. base in Cuba, Mohammed has mocked the tribunal and said he and his co-defendants would plead guilty and welcome execution.
But there were signs that at least some of the defense teams were preparing for a lengthy fight, planning challenges of the military tribunals and the secrecy that shrouds the case.
Charged: Waleed Bin Attash, left, and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi are in a military court at Guantanamo today
The arraignment is ‘only the beginning of a trial that will take years to complete, followed by years of appellate review,’ attorney James Connell, who represents defendant Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, told reporters gathered at the base to observe the hearing.
‘I can’t imagine any scenario where this thing gets wrapped up in six months,’ Connell said.
Defendants in what is known as a military commission typically do not enter a plea during their arraignment.
Instead, the judge reads the charges, makes sure the defendants understand their rights and then moves on to procedural issues.
Lawyers for the men said they were prohibited by secrecy rules from disclosing the intentions of their clients.
Jim Harrington, a civilian attorney for Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni prisoner who has said at one hearing that he was proud of the September 11 attacks, said he did not think that any of the defendants would plead guilty, notwithstanding their earlier statements.
Army Captain Jason Wright, one of Mohammed’s Pentagon-appointed lawyers, declined to comment on the case.
Several of the victims’ families said they were grateful for the chance to see a case they believe has been delayed too long.
In court: Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, left, and Ramzi Binalshibh are in court accused of helping carry out the worst terrorist attack in America’s history
Cliff Russell, whose firefighter brother Stephen died responding to the World Trade Center, said he hoped the case would end with the death penalty for the five Guantanamo Prisoners.
‘I’m not looking forward to ending
someone else’s life and taking satisfaction in it, but it’s the most
disgusting, hateful, awful thing I ever could think of if you think
about what was perpetrated,’ Russell said.
Sisolak of Brooklyn, whose husband Joseph was killed in his office in
the Trade Center’s North Tower, said she was not concerned about the
ultimate outcome as long as the case moves forward and the five
prisoners do not go free.
can put them in prison for life. They can execute them,’ Sisolak said.
‘What I do care about is that this does not happen again.
‘They need to be stopped. That’s what I care about because nobody deserves to have this happen to them.’
arraignment for the five comes more than three years after President
Obama’s failed effort to try the suspects in a federal civilian
court and close the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba.
General Eric Holder announced in 2009 that Mohammed and his
co-defendants would be tried blocks from the site of the destroyed trade
center in downtown Manhattan, but the plan was shelved after New York
officials cited huge costs to secure the neighborhood and family
opposition to trying the suspects in the U.S.
History: The trial comes more than three years after President Barack Obama’s failed effort to try the suspects in a federal civilian court and close the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba
Congress then blocked the transfer of any prisoners from Guantanamo to the U.S., forcing the Obama administration to refile the charges under a reformed military commission system.
New rules adopted by Congress and Obama forbid the use of testimony obtained through cruel treatment or torture.
General Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor, said the commission provides many of the same protections that defendants would get in civilian court. ‘I’m confident that this court can achieve justice and fairness,’ he said.
But human rights groups and the defense lawyers say the reforms have not gone far enough and that restriction on legal mail and the overall secret nature of Guantanamo and the commissions makes it impossible to provide an adequate defense.
They argue that the U.S. has sought to keep the case in the military commission to prevent disclosure of the harsh treatment of prisoners such as Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times and subjected to other measures that some have called torture.
Mohammed, a Pakistani citizen who grew up in Kuwait and attended college in Greensboro, North Carolina, has acknowledged to military authorities that he was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks ‘from A to Z,’ as well as about 30 other plots, and that he personally killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Mohammed was captured in 2003 in Pakistan.
His four co-defendants include Binalshibh, a Yemeni, who was allegedly chosen to be a hijacker but couldn’t get a U.S. visa and ended up providing assistance such as finding flight schools.
Waleed bin Attash, also from Yemen, allegedly ran an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and researched flight simulators and timetables.
The others are Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, a Saudi who allegedly helped the hijackers with money, Western clothing, traveler’s checks and credit cards and al-Aziz Ali, a Pakistani national and nephew of Mohammed, who allegedly provided money to the hijackers.
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What these families are witnessing is not justice but the future of all Americans – detainment without trial, torture and lack of legal representation. This isn’t justice, its a travesty.
I thought bin laden was the mastermind for 911 and that is why we invaded Afghanistan?
I wish they could face the terror they inflicted on thousands of innocent people stuck 1000ft up in the towers with the choice of jumping or burning to death.
If they are sentenced to death its a shame that they will get an quick and humane death at taxpayers expense.
“I have no sympathy with criminals but the American system sucks”
I have no sympathy with mass murdering terrorists like the scum you are trying to defend.
If they had been on trial anywhere in the middle east, for a similar crime, they would be dead already.
@ I wonder what Bliar and Bush would admit to under torture .!- MJC, U.K., 05/5/2012 21:50……………….. Are you insinuating this man is NOT GUILTY ?
I have no sympathy with criminals but the American system sucks. How can you keep people for eleven years without trial in a foreign country and then deny them their day in a civil court, especially after torturing them. I know I would shout anything they wanted to hear if it was me, so we can never be sure that they did it
KSM admitted plotting 9/11 before he was even arrested for it.
Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda interviewed him.
911 was an INSIDE JOB!!!
No death penalty for these guys . Life in prison at the ADX Supermax Prison in Florence Colorado . Much better. See how they like spending 23 hours a day in their little concrete cells . Don’t make them martyers that they want to be . They will wish they were dead after a few years in that prison .
I wonder what Bliar and Bush would admit to under torture .!
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