Accused 9/11 Plotter Ejected from War Court
FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) - Angry objections from an accused Sept. 11, 2001, plotter led to his ejection Monday from a pretrial hearing for the death penalty case at the war court in Guantanamo Bay.
Five men accused of plotting in the terrorist attacks, including alleged "mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, were captured between 2002 and 2003 before their transfer to Guantanamo Bay on Sept. 4, 2006. Their arraignment finally came on May 5, 2012, and the pre-trial proceedings of their military commissions continue to drag.
More than 12 years after the attacks, discovery proceedings in the case encountered further delays on Monday, amid complaints from two angry defendants and an attorney who had fallen ill.
According to transcripts of those sessions, military judge Col. James Pohl has advised the defendants of their rights to attend their hearings with similar - if not identical - boilerplate during every session this year.
This time, two of the men - Mohammad and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, whose leaked Guantanamo profile describes him as the "coordinator" of the Sept. 11 attacks - used the opportunity to protest restrictions on their meetings with their lawyers.
While Mohammad muted his objections after a warning from the judge, Bin al-Shibh was booted from court after loudly insisting, "I have the right to right to talk."
"No, you don't!" Judge Pohl replied.
The closed-circuit feed of the Guantanamo proceedings being broadcast at Ft. Meade did not show military police escorting al-Shibh from the court.
Mohammad appeared at the hearing wearing loose-fitting camouflage and a beard dyed orange. Though some Muslims typically make their beards that color with henna, Mohammad reportedly used juice and berries from the jailhouse. At the hearing, he objected to language stating that his "failure to meet with and cooperate with my defense counsel may negatively affect the presentation of the defense of your case."
From the garbled translation, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind appeared to be complaining about restrictions about his meetings with his attorneys outside of court.
"Mr. Mohammad, I'm not here to discuss a legal issue," Pohl replied. "I'm simply describing your rights to be absent."
Asked whether he understood those rights, Mohammad replied, "Yes, but I'm not convinced of that."
Later in the hearing, defense attorney David Nevin elaborated on Mohammad's objection, saying that the "literal language" of the advisory "implies something that is not true."
"Our meetings are extremely constrained," Nevin said.
Defense attorneys have complained about their limited access to their clients, claiming that they cannot speak to them without monitoring. The government disputes the allegation, and the defense has also complained about the pervasive secrecy surrounding their interrogations.
Pohl replied that the right-to-be-present advisory referred only to what happened inside court. He adjourned proceedings to allow defense co-counsel Cheryl Bormann, who sounded hoarse and tired, to seek medical attention. Proceedings resume Wednesday.