By NVONews.Com Correspondent,
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four Guantanamo Bay co-defendants accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 attacks on World Trade Centre and Pentagon maintained defiant silence––amidst occasional outbursts––as they refused to answer a US military judge’s questions on Saturday in a disorderly 13 hour long court hearing on Saturday.
The hearing in a top-security courtroom at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in Cuba witnessed some strange and dramatic scene. The military tribunal was adjourned until June 12. All the five exercised their right to indefinitely delay entering a plea to murder and terrorism charges that carry the death penalty.
They are all accused of conspiring with Osama bin Laden, murder in violation of the laws of war, hijacking, terrorism and other charges stemming from the 2001 attacks.
Two of the defendants insisted that the charge sheet be read out and it took prosecutors two-and-a-half hours to read the portion describing the highjackings. But they did not read the appendix listing the names of all 2,976 people killed in World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
A previous attempt to prosecute the four men in Guantanamo was halted when the Obama administration tried unsuccessfully to move the case into a New York federal court.
This is the first time that the detainees had been seen in public in about three years. Forty-seven year old Khalid Sheikh of Pakistani origin was born and brought up in Kuwait. He was captured by ISI in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on March 1, 2003, and remained in CIA custody for three years before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006. It was said that the CIA possibly assisted ISI in nabbing him.
In court room on Saturday he looked fatigued. He wore a white turban and white tunic.
He and his co-defendants refused to answer the judge, Army Colonel James Pohl’s questions. However, the judge tried to keep the hearing on track.
At one point the judge asked: “Why is this so hard?” Defense attorney David Nevin said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed refused to respond to the questions because “he is deeply concerned about the fairness of the proceeding” and had been tortured.
Yemeni co-defendant Ramzi Binalshibh shouted and seemed to be saying that the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was being kept at Guantanamo. He said tricks were being played on the defendants inside the prison camp and “maybe they are going to kill us at the camp … and say that we are committing suicide.”
Another Yemeni defendant Walid bin Attash refused to enter the courtroom compelling guards to strap him into a restraining chair and wheeled him in. He stripped off his shirt and undershirt when his attorney said he had been scarred by abuse in custody.
The defendants refused to listen through earphones to Arabic translations of the judge’s questions, so the judge ordered the translation broadcast over a loudspeaker, which sometimes drowned out the conversation between the lawyers and the judge.
Interestingly, an attorney for bin Attash, Cheryl Borman, wore a black hijab and long black robe, in the court. She too talked about mistreatment to her client at Guantanamo.
Curiously, she asked female paralegals and FBI agents sitting with the prosecution team to dress in accordance with cultural sensitivity of the accused so that they would not be forced to look away as their religion requires. These women were wearing pantsuits and knee-length skirts and blazers.
During recesses the defendants offered prayer and chatted among themselves, and passed around a copy of The Economist magazine