9/11 Defendants Appear at Guantanamo Court

Today, the 5 detainees at Guantanamo charged with the September 11, 2001 attacks were brought to a courtroom at the Expeditionary Legal Complex (ELC),

They are Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin 'Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.”

They are all in court now. So far, none have uttered a word. While the proceeding is called an arraignment, the defendants are not called upon to enter a plea. The judge reads them their rights, an interpreter who is not physically present interprets one line at a time, and the Court asks if they understand their rights. (The interpreter is in a different building.) So far, none of the defendants have replied to the judge's questoins, which goes on the record as "refused to answer." [More...]

These are holding cells outside the courtroom building where the detainees are kept during breaks.

As defendants are transported to and from the courtroom each day, they sometimes spend a considerable amount of time outside the courtroom during recesses or while awaiting transport. Consequently, the ELC contains holding cells that include bunks for sleeping, desks and sanitary facilities.

While the documents refer to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he has painstakingly changed each "e" to an "a" in the 123 page charging document, so I will spell his name the way he spells it: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Media representatives are housed in tents at Camp Justice. They can view the proceedings either from behind a soundproof glass partition in the courtroom or the media center via closed circuit TV.

To prevent inadvertent disclosure of protected information, the gallery is separated from the trial area by soundproof glass, the audio feed to the spectators is delayed for 40 seconds and both the audio and video feed may be cut off if necessary.

The Government intends to try them together at a joint trial.

Based on the allegations outlined in the charge sheets, the five accused are charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and destruction of property in violation of the law of war. The convening authority has referred all charges to a joint trial.

The five could be sentenced to death. Each as a "detailed defense counsel" and a counsel with experience in death penalty cases (called "learned counsel."

To follow the proceedings live, I recommend McClatchy reporter Carol Rosenberg's twitter feed.

All of the defendants have a pending motion to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the referral to the military commission is defective.

To recap one of the motions, filed April 20, 2012 by Ramzi Binalshibh's learned counsel James Harrington of Buffalo, New York: Harrington says that he was appointed to represent Binalshibh in July, 2011 when the old charges were pending. It took until December, 2011 to get his security clearance. He could only begin reviewing materials after he received his clearance, and review must take place either at a special complex in Virginia or at Guantanamo.

He met his client for the first time in January, 2012. He was appointed in this case in April, 2012. He's been to Gitmo four times to see his client, and says it will take months, if not years, to develop the trust of his client and build the attorney-client relationship that is needed to effectively represent a client in a death case.

A mitigation specialist has been approved for Binalshibh, but he didn't a clearance until March 30, 2012. So that was the earliest he could review documents. And he will first be meeting Binalshibh today.

To communicate, Harrington and the mitigation specialist, who is from Vermont, are required to use a secure communications line, which neither of them have. Thus, they can only talk about the case at the complex in Virginia or at Guantanamo.

The military has been grossly interfering with the defendants' right to counsel. It insists that all correspondence and documents first be submitted to a "privilege review team." In January, 2012, the Chief Defense Counsel issued an ethics instruction to the defense counsel in this case stating they should not submit material intended for their client to the "privilege review team" as it violates their constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel and the attorney-client privilege.

The legality of the mail restrictions is currently being appealed to a federal appeals court in Washington, and a hearing isn't set until September.

Binalshibh has been in U.S. custody for 9 1/2 years, since September 11, 2002.

The closed-circuit televising of proceedings in the U.S. is limited to victims' families and media. Testimony about the defendants' torture while in secret overseas prison under the direction of the CIA won't be allowed, since the revamped rules don't allow the use of statements obtained through cruel treatment or torture.

It is impossible to provide effective representation to a defendant facing death with the restrictions imposed on attorney-client communications and mail. These are show trials. These defendants should be tried in federal criminal court.

Transcripts of today's proceeding should be available later today or tomorrow at the Military Commission's website under "Cases." Scroll down to KSM(2) and then click on docket. The public documents open and can be saved to your computer, but they don't have direct links so unless someone else uploads them to their own server, it's not possible to link to a specific document. (I'm not sure if the military even allows the documents to be privately hosted.)

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  • Display: Sort:
    Yes, show trials, by a Democratic government (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Andreas on Sat May 05, 2012 at 01:58:41 PM EST

    I see kangaroos (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Dadler on Sat May 05, 2012 at 02:53:34 PM EST
    Same difference, though.