Alleged 9/11 plotters defy judge in protest at unfair trial, torture
The trial of five alleged al-Qaeda members accused of involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US has descended into farce after they refused to respond to questions in protest at their mistreatment during detention.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York, and his four co-defendants appeared on Saturday before a US military tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in Cuba.
But the arraignment failed to go smoothly after the defendants refused to answer the judge’s questions in protest at what their civilian lawyers described as their deep concerns about the fairness of the proceeding and the mistreatment of the defendants by their prison guards. The lawyers also said they were only allowed limited access to their clients.
Cheryl Borman, a civilian attorney for Walid bin Attash, told the court that the treatment of her client at Guantanamo had interfered with his ability to participate in the proceedings. “These men have been mistreated,” she said.
Attash was transferred to the courtroom while being tied to his chair.
Ramzi Binalshibh, another suspect, eventually attempted to address the court. When told by the judge he could speak later, he replied, “Maybe you’re not going to see us anymore. Maybe they kill me and say I committed suicide.”
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is of Pakistani origin but was born in Kuwait, was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and transferred to the Guantanamo base in Cuba in 2006.
The defendants, who face charges of terrorism, hijacking, conspiracy, and murder, were held for more than three years in secret CIA prisons before being transferred to the Guantanamo detention facility in 2006.
Attempts to try the suspects in a US civilian court in 2009 stopped due to Congressional opposition. According to new regulations for the trial of the five suspects, confessions that have been made under torture cannot be used in court.
This is while all five have said they were tortured during detention. The CIA has admitted that Mohammed alone was waterboarded 183 times.
Defense lawyers say the trial lacks legitimacy because of restricted access to their clients, while US rights groups have also questioned the fairness of the proceedings.
The lawyers have argued that the suspects were subjected to various forms of torture and held without a chance to examine the evidence against them.