9/11 defendants protest Guantanamo Bay military commission


A view from the plane carrying nearly 60 journalists headed for the U.S. Navy base on May 4, 2012 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged accomplices will be arraigned on charges including 2976 counts of murder during the September 11th terrorist attacks.


Walter Michot

The Guantanamo Bay military trials of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other defendants got off to disorderly start on Saturday, according to The New York Times. The paper described a "chaotic scene" in the courtroom, with defendants refusing to acknowledge the judge's questions and several acts of defiance.

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The defendants removed their translation headphones, refused to enter pleas, and "another detainee, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, rose suddenly, then knelt on the floor of the courtroom to pray. A team of guards in camouflage uniforms watched closely, but did not intervene," wrote the paper. At another point Al Shibh shouted out, "They are going to kill us."

Defendant Walid bin Tallash entered the courtroom strapped to a chair, but was later released.

Judge Army Col. James Pohl "warned he would not permit defendants to block the hearing and would continue without his participation," wrote the Associated Press

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The men are charged with a variety of crimes, including hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, and 2,976 counts of murder in the violation of the law of war, and could face the death penalty if convicted, wrote CNN. The actions drew the proceedings on for hours in a preliminary hearing that "could have lasted minutes."

Mohammed, the "self-proclaimed" mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, had previously said he would plead guilty. "But there were signs that at least some of the defense teams were preparing for a lengthy fight, planning challenges of the military tribunals and the secrecy that shrouds the case," wrote the AP.

Rights groups criticized the tribunals, which are called military commissions, as unfair. But Obama administration officials said they will be fairer than George W. Bush-era trials. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times, but new rules say that evidence obtained during torture is inadmissible.