Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Trends Wide) – Five suspected September 11 conspirators, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been called the mastermind behind the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, appeared in military court for a pre-trial hearing at the Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba. , this Tuesday. All five are accused of having some involvement in the planning and execution of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The pre-trial hearing is the first time the five detainees have appeared in court since February 2020. Along with Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi they are also accused in the case. If convicted, all five could face the death penalty.
The case has faced a number of challenges since and before the detainees were processed at Guantanamo in 2012 during the Obama administration. The most recent 18-month hiatus was caused by the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and personnel changes.
Mohammed and the other four detainees were dressed in culturally appropriate attire provided by their lawyers. Mohammed appeared at court wearing a Pakul-style hat, with a white shirt covering his head and a navy blue scarf braided and wrapped around his head and shoulders. His henna-dyed reddish-orange beard was visible.
Three of the men wore headscarves and one, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, referred to by his lawyers as Ammar al Baluchi, wore gray Sindi garb, a traditional hat from his native province of Pakistan. Ali is Mohammed’s nephew.
The impact of covid-19
The five detainees were escorted into the courtroom by prison guards wearing blue rubber gloves, masks and masks. Judge Colonel Matthew N. McCall asked everyone in the courtroom to keep their masks on during the hearing. As the five detainees entered the courtroom with their masks on, four of them took them off during the hearing.
The detainees, who sat on the edge of the tables lined along the left side of the courtroom, chatted with each other during the two and a half hours they were in court, both during the hearing and during the two recesses of the courtroom. living room.
Mohammed, who was sitting closest to the judge in the order of the detainees, was seen with his arm hanging from the back of his chair talking to Bin ‘Attash, who sat behind him in the order in which they were processed in the courtroom. During the first courtroom recess, Mohammed left the courtroom accompanied by guards. He greeted two reporters in the gallery as he left.
James Connell, Ali’s attorney, said his client was talking to the other detainees and his legal team because he is happy to be released from confinement.
“The man has been locked up for as long as everyone else has been locked up, and seeing people he hasn’t seen, his legal team that he hasn’t seen in a long time is a source of delight,” Connell said. “He is happy to be back in court, he is happy to see the case progress and he is happy to see his legal team after a long covid-related isolation.”
Family members of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, observers and journalists witnessed the courtroom proceedings from behind soundproof glass and under a 40-second delay to ensure classified material is not accidentally made public. .
A new judge
McCall, an Air Force judge, presided over his first in-person hearing on the case. Whether or not McCall should preside over the case has been unfinished business and is the subject of the first week’s hearings.
Prosecutors, who represent the United States government, initially protested McCall’s appointment because he did not have two years of experience as a military judge, a requirement for serving as a judge on a military commission.
McCall recused himself and was later reappointed after he gained the appropriate amount of experience to preside over the case.
The first week of hearings is expected to cover the question of whether the prosecution or defense teams have any objection to McCall presiding over the case. The prosecution and defense began questioning McCall today, but the hearing was interrupted when a military appeals court ruling was rendered on the issue under discussion.
The appeals court ruling said McCall could preside, but the ruling also says that any decision McCall made while serving as a judge in the case before gaining two years of experience is no longer valid.
Since the five detainees were processed at the Guantanamo Naval Base in 2012, four judges have presided over the in-person hearings of the case.
The questioning of the judge by the defense attorneys and prosecutors will continue this Wednesday.