there is no reason the public should not be privy to hearings and the hearings by law actually be fair and just … just saying, with all the aftermath that this has caused we have every damn right to know.
The US military has held a pre-trial hearing for five Gitmo inmates accused of planning the controversial 9/11 attacks in 2001 as the defendants maintain justice does not exist in the court martial.
“I don’t think there’s any justice in this court,” said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the lead defendant who, through persistent publicity, has been accused by American military and government officials as the “mastermind” of the sophisticated terrorist attacks against the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon, near Washington, that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001.
Pre-trial hearings for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged al-Qaeda operatives opened Monday with a ruling that the defendants cannot be forced to attend the court martial at the US naval base and notorious prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, widely cited for torturing inmates.
The other defendants are Ramzi Binalshibh, the alleged “manager of the cell” that carried out the attacks; Walid bin Attash, an alleged al-Qaeda training camp steward; and Mustafa Ahmed Hawsawi and Ammar al Baluchi, aka Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, alleged al-Qaeda financiers.
The remarks by Mohammed about the military court’s illegitimacy, as well as his continued reservations against attending the court martial, was also invoked by attorneys of the other defendants while Chief Prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins insisted that under the military commission rules, the accused had no “right to refuse” presence in court sessions.
“The government should not be forced to proceed against empty chairs,” Martins said, reflecting government’s demand that the court’s Judge James L. Pohl, an Army colonel, prohibit the suspects from staying in their prison cells to protest the military commission trial.
Defense attorneys of the accused, however, argued that they should not be compelled to appear in the military hearings, invoking their client’s belief that the tribunal lacks legitimacy.
“There may be reasons why our clients don’t want to come to court on a particular day,” said James Harrington, a Binalshibh attorney. “Our clients may believe they don’t want anything to do with this court, that they don’t recognize the court.”
Furthermore, Air Force Capt. Michael Schwartz, who represents Attash, added, “If my client feels like this process allows him to adequately defend himself, he would like to be here, but when the government says this process is humane, we should have the opportunity to refute that.”
He further emphasized that the US government demanded the attendance of the accused in the hearings to give the proceedings “the appearance of justice.”
Eventually, Pohl ruled that the defendants “can choose to voluntarily not attend a session,” allowing them to monitor the proceedings in their prison cells through a video feed.
The judge also reminded the defendants that their military prosecution would continue even if they were to escape from the heavily fortified military prison, drawing mocking remarks from them.
“I’ll be sure to leave a note when I go,” Baluchi jokingly responded to the judge.
Monday was the opening day in a weeklong pre-trial hearing on 25 reported legal disputes in the only presumed legal trial emerging from the highly controversial 9/11 terrorist attacks with mounting, unanswered questions about the role of US government elements in the attacks. The defendants are named in 87 charges that include conspiracy, murder, aircraft hijacking and terrorism. A trial has been tentatively scheduled for May 2013.
Last May, the five defendants, who are faced with the death penalty if convicted, disrupted the military proceedings. One detainee had to be restrained, several refused to listen to Arabic translations on headphones and some outright ignored the judge. Two abruptly stood to pray.
The military prosecution was relayed by video to reporters at Fort Meade, a major US military and intelligence center in Maryland, near Washington DC.