Naval Base Guantanamo Bay:
The accused mastermind of September 11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others, appeared in court for the first time in more than 18 months on Tuesday as US military prosecutors seek justice two decades after the earth-shattering terror attacks.
Mohammed – with a dense, graying red beard – easily stepped into the courtroom at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the nine-year-old trial was resumed after a long stop for the Covid-19 pandemic.
The military tribunal’s courtroom was packed with prosecutors, interpreters and five defense teams for Mohammed and alleged co-conspirators Ammar al-Baluchi, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Mustafa al-Hawsawi.
In the audience, behind thick glass, were members of the families of the 2,976 people whose suspects are accused of murder almost exactly 20 years ago.
The accused risk possible execution if found guilty.
But with the preliminary investigation phase now in its ninth year, bogged down in what is now the central issue that the five were repeatedly tortured by the CIA after their arrest, there is no immediate end in sight to the proceedings.
Without political intervention — President Joe Biden had pledged during his campaign to close the military prison in Guantanamo Bay — it could be more than a year before a full trial begins, let alone a verdict.
– Torture issue –
The trial resumed Tuesday in the high-security “Camp Justice” courtroom on a hilltop in the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.
The last time the court met was in February 2019, just as the coronavirus spread across the United States.
The trial site is about 10 kilometers from the coastal detention camps where the five defendants and 34 other “War on Terror” prisoners have been held for 15 years or more.
The hearing opened under the leadership of a brand new judge, Air Force Colonel Matthew McCall, the eighth to be named chairman.
McCall opened by asking each of the defendants if they understood the guidelines for the hearing.
Each answered yes, some in English and some in their own language.
There is little doubt that Mohammed, or KSM as he is known, was heavily involved in the preparations for the September 11 attacks.
He told interrogators that he introduced it to Osama bin Laden in 1996 and oversaw the execution of the attack, in which 19 Al-Qaeda members hijacked four American passenger planes and two in the World Trade Center in New York and one in the Pentagon. crashed while a passenger counterattack on the fourth led the jet to crash into a field in Pennsylvania.
The other four defendants are said to have helped prepare the attack, trained the hijackers, transferred money to them and coordinated movements.
The five were all captured between 2002 and 2003 and held for more than two years in black CIA locations around the world where they were subjected to waterboarding, physical abuse and stress, and mental pressure – all now banned as torture.
They were all brought to Guantanamo almost exactly 15 years ago.
Defense attorneys argue that the torture compromised the entire trial, eliminating any standard of due process, and that if the proceedings had been held in federal court in the United States, the entire case could have been thrown out.
Not only is the evidence from the CIA interrogations inadmissible, but also the evidence from the so-called “clean team” interrogations that the FBI conducted in 2007, because the FBI also participated in the CIA operation, the defense argues.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)