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9/11 trial: Suspects refuse to answer judge's questions

world Updated: May 07, 2012 00:41 IST
Guardian News Service
Guardian News Service
Hindustan Times
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The self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four other accused terrorists were ordered to stand trial at a hearing before a Guantánamo military tribunal that descended into chaos on Saturday as the defendants refused to acknowledge the judge and their lawyers repeatedly challenged the legitimacy of the court.

The accused men, one of whom was brought to the arraignment hearing strapped to a restraining chair after refusing to attend, dropped their previous insistence on pleading guilty and demanding to be executed in favour of largely sitting in silence as defence lawyers attempted to raise the issue of torture and question the independence of the judge.

None of the defendants chose to enter a plea at the hearing and reserved it for a later appearance. The judge set a tentative trial date of May 2013 although he acknowledged that there are likely to be more delays.

After a 13-hour session to arraign the suspects, proceedings have been adjourned until 12 June.

Mohammed's lawyer, David Nevin, told the court that "the world is watching" the trial after the US government admitted to waterboarding the accused terrorist 183 times. Another defence lawyer, James Connell, called the military tribunal a "blight on America's international reputation and her commitment to the rule of law".

Mohammed and his co-accused - Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi and Walid bin Attash - each face 2,976 counts of murder representing the victims who died on 9/11, as well as accusations of terrorism, hijacking, conspiracy and destruction of property. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for all of the men.

At an arraignment hearing in 2008 Mohammed mocked the court and tried to plead guilty, saying he wanted to be put to death as a martyr. The US supreme court later struck down the rules of evidence and the trial was called off.