The trial of the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged co-conspirators resumes today in Guantanamo Bay, just days before the 20th anniversary of America’s darkest day.
Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi will appear before the military tribunal on Tuesday on charges of plotting and carrying out the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 that killed 2,977 people died.
The process for the trial runs from Tuesday to Friday and resumes from Monday to September 17.
Thereafter, additional hearings are expected to be held in November, followed by jury selection in 2022 at the earliest.
All five suspects face the death penalty if convicted on charges, which include: terrorism; hijacking aircraft; plot; murder in violation of the laws of war; attack civilians; attacking civilian objects; intentionally cause serious bodily harm; and destruction of property in violation of the laws of war.
It is the first time the five suspects have appeared before the military tribunal since early 2019 after numerous delays in pursuing justice – most recently caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The timing is particularly poignant as Saturday marks 20 years since Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four planes and carried out coordinated attacks in the US.
Two of the planes flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The anniversary stems from the chaotic US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan last month, in which the Taliban regained control of the country and 13 US troops were killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul.
President Joe Biden also signed an executive order Friday ordering a review of classified documents related to the 9/11 terror attacks after the victims’ relatives and survivors told him to stay away from the anniversary events unless he documents documents. that may reveal the Saudi government’s ties to the hijackers.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known as KSM, is one of five Guantanamo Bay detainees whose hearings resume Tuesday
Ramzi Bin al-Shibh (left) and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali are both charged with involvement in the 9/11 attacks and will resume their cases Tuesday with pre-trial hearings.
Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash (left) is accused of training the hijackers to fight, while Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, now 53, of Saudi Arabia, is accused of providing financial support to the group
The hearings will take place at the Expeditionary Legal Complex (ELC) in Camp Justice, which was built specifically for the trial of 9/11 suspects.
The five suspects will all be in court for the hearings, which will be attended by a small number of reporters, victims’ families and survivors.
Air Force Colonel Matthew McCall will chair the pre-trial hearings of the five suspects.
He is the eighth military judge on the case and the fourth during the preliminary investigation.
McCall said on Sunday the proceedings will begin Tuesday with an initial hearing focused on his own qualifications.
Lawyers from both sides may question a new judge for possible bias in a war crimes tribunal.
The rest of the week will mainly consist of meetings with the military prosecutors and defense teams.
Many of the pre-trial hearings will focus on what evidence will be admissible at trial, as the defense has argued that information was collected under torture.
It’s unclear how much of the hearings will teach the public because of concerns about classified information and national security.
The five suspects have been held in the ‘War on Terror’ prison at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly 15 years.
They were first indicted in 2012.
But after a 17-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, proceedings seem likely to pick up where they left off, mired in the defense’s efforts to disqualify most of the government’s evidence as tainted by the torture used. the defendants underwent CIA custody.
With numerous motions filed to demand evidence that military prosecutors refuse to hand over, defense attorneys said the preliminary inquiry phase could easily last another year, leaving any hope of a jury trial and verdict far on the horizon. .
When asked if the case could ever reach that point, a lawyer, James Connell, replied, “I don’t know.”
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, killed 2,977 people, including 2,753 people in New York
Lawyers say the five defendants are all weak and suffer the lasting effects of severe torture endured in secret CIA “black” locations between 2002 and 2006.
Added to this, the lawyers say, is the cumulative impact of 15 years in harsh, isolated conditions since their arrival.
They will appear in an ultra-secure military commission courtroom, surrounded by barbed wire fences, each with its own defense team.
In the audience will be relatives of some of the 2,977 people they are accused of two decades ago, as well as a large contingent of reporters to mark the confluence with Saturday’s bleak birthday.
The five face the death penalty on charges of murder and terrorism in the war crimes tribunal.
They are represented by lawyers assigned by the military, as well as pro-bono lawyers from the private sector and non-governmental organizations.
Since the start of the case, prosecutors have viewed it as open and closed, even without the tainted information harvested from the brutal CIA interrogations.
Instead, prosecutors allege that the defendants all provided solid evidence of conspiracy in the 9/11 attacks during so-called “clean-team” interrogations conducted by the FBI in 2007, after the five arrived in Guantanamo.
But defense attorneys argue that the 2007 interrogations were hardly “clean” because the FBI also participated in the CIA’s torture program, and their interrogations posed a similar threat.
The defendants, still feeling the impact of torture at the time, spoke to the FBI in real fear it would start again, the defense said.
The 9/11 attacks, carried out nearly 20 years ago, killed nearly 3,000 people
“Make no mistake, hiding torture is the reason these men were brought to Guantanamo” rather than the US federal justice system, said Connell, who represents Baluchi.
“The cover-up of torture is also why we are all gathered in Guantanamo for the 42nd Military Commission hearing on September 11,” he said.
To prove their case, the defense is demanding massive amounts of classified material that the government opposes transferring everything from the original torture program to conditions in Guantanamo to health assessments.
Defense lawyers also want to interview dozens of witnesses after 12 had already appeared in court, including two men who oversaw the CIA program.
The demands have delayed the trial, but the defense accuses the government of actively hiding material relevant to the case.
Alka Pradhan, another lawyer, noted that it took the government six years to admit that the FBI participated in the CIA’s torture program.
“This case wears you out,” she said.
“They’re withholding things that are normal in court.”