The 21st Century Phenomenon





The first appearance of The 9/11 leading suspects before a military tribunal at the USA base at Guantanamo Bay, on Saturday 05/05/2012, has been marked by hectic scenes.

Khalid Shaik Mohammed; Tawfiq bin Attash; Ramzi Binalshibh; Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa al-Hawsawi accused of plotting the 2001 attacks refused to respond to questions during the seven-hour hearing. The five refused to enter pleas on murder and terrorism charges. The charges can carry the death penalty.

They will now be asked again to enter pleas of guilty or not guilty at a later hearing. The men are being tried by a military tribunal after an attempt to transfer them to a US civilian court in 2009 failed in the face of a public outcry and Congressional opposition (see – Holder’s NY Decision). Newly introduced rules include a ban on evidence obtained under torture. But defence lawyers still say the Guantanamo trial system lacks legitimacy because of restricted access to their clients.

The arraignment hearing – in which the defendants are read the charges against them – was first delayed when Tawfiq bin Attash arrived in court restrained in his chair. The restraints were later removed after defence counsel had given assurances that he would “behave”. Another defendant, Ramzi Binalshibh, knelt and prayed for several minutes.

Khalid Shaik Mohammed, wearing a white turban and a flowing beard, refused to answer the judge’s questions. His lawyer said he was refusing to listen to the judge in protest at his alleged torture in custody and because he believed the tribunal was unfair. The hearing was further delayed when all the defendants refused to wear the earphones that provide translation into Arabic. It later resumed with an Arabic translator present in court – ensuring that the accused could follow proceedings.

Ramzi Binalshibh eventually attempted to address the court. When told by the judge he could speak later he replied: “Maybe you’re not going to see us any more. Maybe they will kill me and say I committed suicide.”

The decision to hold a military rather than a civilian trial remains controversial and follows a lengthy legal wrangle over where the five men would face justice. One of the defendants’ lawyers, James Connell, predicted the trial would take years to complete.

US prosecutors allege that he was involved with a host of other terrorist activities. These include the Bali ‘02 Bombings, in Indonesia, the 02/26/1993 World Trade Center bombing, the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl and a failed 2001 attempt to blow up an airliner using a shoe bomb.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has alleged that he was repeatedly tortured during his detention in Cuba. CIA documents confirm that he was subjected to simulated drowning, known as waterboarding, 183 times.

The first hearing in Guantanamo was the first sample of what could be the face of the trial in New York (see – Controversial Decision). It seems USA is stuck with the 9/11 defendants without a clear judicial path to end the saga (see – U.S VALUES).




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