GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA - A military commission trying the planners of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States for war crimes kicked off a series of hearings this week on motions filed by lawyers for the self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other defendants.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants appeared in court Tuesday morning to face conspiracy charges related to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.
Mohammed was dressed in a white keffiyeh headdress, his long beard dyed red with henna ink. He spoke only to acknowledge the judge’s instructions.
Defense lawyers this week will seek to have the charges against Mohammed and the others dismissed on the grounds that the attorneys did not have sufficient access to classified information about the treatment of their clients while in U.S. custody. Mohammed has been in custody since March 1, 2003.
The presiding judge spent much of the morning hearing complaints from defense lawyers who alleged that their privileged communications and documents with their clients had been seized by the military. These seizures, they argued, diminished the trust between the attorneys and the accused.
If the military did seize those communications, it would be a violation of the trial judge's orders.
Cheryl Bormann, the defense attorney for Walid bin Attash, who allegedly ran an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, said that the seizures could make a “sham” of the entire court proceeding.
Chief war crimes prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins told the judge that prosecutors needed time to review the defense lawyers' allegations, but noted that military personnel must be allowed to conduct searches of defendants' cells and belongings. He noted that the defendants had already been caught with a copy of the al Qaeda magazine ‘Inspire’ and a pen refill.
A judge advocate for the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Lt. Cmdr. George Massucco, is expected to testify this week about the seizures.
The Guantanamo military commission will continue proceedings throughout the week, including pre-trial arguments that would establish the framework for the trial of Mohammed and the other men charged for war crimes. The trial itself is expected to begin in late 2014.