Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Trends Wide) – Pre-trial hearings in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused of being the main conspirator behind the 9/11 attacks, and four other detainees at Guantanamo Bay will resume on Tuesday. The last face-to-face hearing of the case was held in February 2020.
The five detainees are charged with conspiring and carrying out the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Along with Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi also are charged in the case. If convicted, all five could face the death penalty.
The charges against them announced by the United States government in 2012 include “terrorism, hijacking of airplanes, conspiracy, murder in violation of humanitarian law, attack on civilians, attack on civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property in violation of humanitarian law “.
Preliminary hearings will resume after a year and a half hiatus caused by the covid-19 pandemic and staff changes.
This week’s hearings will be the first before the most recent judge to be assigned to the case, Col. Matthew N. McCall, who is an Air Force judge. Four judges have presided over hearings in the case since the five detainees were processed at Guantanamo in 2012.
Hearings are also held the week before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Several relatives of victims of the attacks are in Guantánamo to observe the hearings.
The Biden government has said it plans to close the Guantanamo prison, where several detainees were tortured, by the end of the term. A Moroccan man held in prison for almost 20 years was transferred from the prison to Morocco in July, marking the first transfer of a detainee under the administration.
A process riddled with problems
The trial has been fraught with problems since and before the five were indicted at Guantanamo in 2012 under the Obama administration. The US military indicted Mohammed in 2008, but former President Barack Obama stopped the case as part of his effort to close the Guantanamo detention center.
The Obama administration created a military commission to handle the case and initially wanted the five detainees to be tried in the United States. After the administration faced political repercussions for that decision, the Obama administration decided to go ahead with the trial of the five Guantanamo detainees, prosecuting them in 2012.
Since 2012, the case has been through a series of preliminary hearings and litigation, moving slowly through issues that must be resolved before it can go to trial.
Among the outstanding issues are the evidence to which the prosecution, the United States government, will allow the defense to have access and whether the information from the FBI interrogations carried out after the detainees were taken to Guantánamo in 2007 is or not admissible at trial.
The defense argues that these interrogations are tainted by torture that took place in undisclosed places, known as “black places” or clandestine places of detention, before the detainees were taken to Guantánamo, and does not believe that their presentation as proof.
The Bush administration transferred 14 detainees, including the five in this case, who were being held by the Central Intelligence Agency in undisclosed locations to Guantanamo Bay in 2006. President George W. Bush announced the transfer in a speech delivered in the White House on September 6, 2006, fifteen years ago.
In the speech, Bush said: “America does not torture. It is against our laws and our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it.”
This speech was the first public recognition of the CIA program, in which detainees were brutally tortured. The program was approved by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks, when counterterrorism officials tried to obtain information on possible future attacks. The Bush administration maintained that the method was not torture, calling it instead “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
The five detainees in this case were severely tortured.