Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's Day in Gitmo Court

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed this week took the lead for himself and four other accused terrorists during pre-trial hearings in their military commissions proceeding.

Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi, Walid bin Attash and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali are charged with conspiring with al Qaeda to kill civilians in the September 11 attacks. All face the death penalty. While blasting the procedures as an "inquisition" and requesting recusal of the judge, Mohammed also offered to try and convince Ramzi Binalshibh to come out of his cell voluntarily and attend the proceedings. [More...]

On the nature of the proceedings:

"I would never believe that you are capable of presiding over this case," said Mohammed, who was acting as his own attorney. "In your eyes I am Islamic extremist." "We are part of an inquisition rather than a civil or military case," he said.

The judge denied the request for recusal and as to his mediation offer, made on Monday, refused to allow a meeting between Mohammed and Binalshibh. He did, however, say Mohammed and the others could write letters to Binalshibh. Binalshibh appeared in court Tuesday.

Among Mohammed's other objections:

Mohammed also asked Kohlmann to break early on Tuesday to allow for Islamic practices during the holy month of Ramadan and to impose a stricter dress code on women court participants, which the judge denied. Mohammed's complaint was believed to be directed at a prosecution paralegal whose shoulders were bare.

Mohammed also asked for more computer equipment and better translators.

lead prosecutor Robert Swann said the government is preparing to issue each defendant a laptop computer loaded with 40,782 pages of documents and more than 50 videos.

Only 40,000 pages of documents? My average wiretap or white collar case has far more than that. I wonder what, aside from classified information, they aren't turning over.

Mohammed and two other defendants are representing themselves with help from civilian and military lawyers.

Torture will be an issue at the trials, which aren't expected to begin before Bush leaves office.

Defense attorneys said they will seek to exclude from trial all evidence extracted under duress. "Torture is at issue in this case," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, who is representing Ammar al-Baluchi. "It is going to be at the very center of this case."

The Government has confirmed that Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding. Most, if not all, were held in overseas prisons before being transferred to Gitmo.

The LA Times reports that Mohammed's examination of the judge went on for over an hour.

Glaring and poking an occasional finger in the air, Mohammed demanded that the judge explain his views on such hot-button issues as religion and torture. He was frequently unsatisfied, and hit Kohlmann with a barrage of follow-up questions and sarcastic political commentary before the judge threatened to revoke Mohammed's court authorization to act as his own lawyer in the case.

But before that, the former Al Qaeda operations chief, now paunchy, bespectacled and wearing flowing robes and a black turban, had the run of the courtroom. He was conducting the voir dire process that is designed to allow the defense to examine a judge's competence and impartiality.

Religion and the judge's Marine training were high among Mohammed's concerns:

Mohammed, 43, also asked Kohlmann whether he was part of an American "extremist sect" such as those led by Christian evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. And he wanted to know the details of Kohlmann's Marine training and his knowledge of waterboarding and other coercive interrogation tactics that the CIA has admitted using on him after capturing Mohammed in Pakistan in 2003.

... At one point he demanded that the judge explain how he could ensure a fair trial, both as a Christian and a member of a U.S. military that has declared war on Al Qaeda. "The government considers all of us fanatical extremists," Mohammed said. "How can you, as an officer of the U.S. Marine Corps, stand over me in judgment?"

The proceedings are expected to become more chaotic.

[A] parade of defense lawyers and the defendants themselves told the judge about another long list of problems that they said will make it impossible to get a fair trial.

Lawyer-client conversations may not be confidential, they said, and the court translators are incompetent, a severe hindrance for defendants who don't speak English.

Perhaps most dire, they told Kohlmann, were indications that the lawyers cannot talk to friends and family of the accused as part of their defense preparation without prosecutors finding out about it, which has scared off potential witnesses on their behalf.

As one of the defendant's lawyers put it:

"It shows that despite hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, the system is not functioning."

Perhaps if Obama is elected, these sham trials will be aborted and transferred to a federal criminal court or a court of military justice where they belonged in the first place -- once the U.S. ruled out allowing them to be tried in an international tribunal, which would have been the most appropriate option.

More information about the charges and proceedings, including some documents and transcripts, is available at this Defense Department webpage.

TalkLeft has been tracking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh since 2002. Our coverage of Mohammed is accessible here and Binalshibh here.

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    Jaralyn you need to suspend these posts! (none / 0) (#1)
    by Jgarza on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 04:48:13 PM EST
    There is an economic crisis!!!  

    I hope you were being funny (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 05:00:20 PM EST
    My knowledge of economic issues could fit inside this comment box.

    Maybe it is just me (none / 0) (#2)
    by dissenter on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 04:57:52 PM EST
    But considering the republic is on the verge of a collapse....I don't care:)

    I wish our nation's lawyers would focus on that. What kinds of laws protect us? What should be done legally? Can we cancel the debt if the transactions were fraudulent, etc?

    That is the legal stuff I would like to see right now.

    Heh (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Steve M on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 05:10:51 PM EST
    The wonderful thing about America is that we have enough lawyers to allow for someone to cover each and every issue.  Some would even say we have more than enough.

    you won't find those answers (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 05:03:31 PM EST
    from me, sorry. BTD has tons of post on the economy today and I'm staying focused on the election and crime and injustice.

    J (none / 0) (#5)
    by dissenter on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 05:06:01 PM EST
    Trust me this economic mess at its heart is a legal injustice:) It is definitely worth exploring.

    And it is criminal law:)