Military Hearings Begin for Suspected 9/11 Plotters

In 9/11 News on December 9, 2008 at 10:17 am

BBC News Reports 9 relatives of Americans killed in the the 9/11 terrorist actions hear the following words:  “I want to send my greetings to Osama Bin Laden and reaffirm my allegiance. I hope the Jihad will continue and strike the heart of America with all kinds of weapons of mass destruction.”

Those chilling words were delivered by Ramzi Binalshibh through a translator at the close of the first day of the pre-trail military hearing at Guantanamo Bay. Mr Binalshibh is one of the five men accused of plotting the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001.

His comments were heard in person by some of the families of the victims of 9/11 – who for the first time had a chance to see the alleged plotters in the flesh.

It was an extraordinary day in court for many reasons: 

  • The military trials process is untried and untested and has been widely condemned and criticised by President-elect Barack Obama.
  • It saw a rare appearance of the five alleged plotters of the attacks – including the alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – that killed almost 3,000 people in 2001.
  • And it was the first time that members of the families of the victims of 9/11 had been flown in to witness the proceedings.

The nine relatives – from five families – sat in court behind a glass screen. They were shielded from the media present by a large blue curtain. They sat sombre-faced as those accused of killing their loved ones fielded questions from the US military judge.

The initial focus was on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

He claims he planned the “A to Z” of the attacks, and according to Pentagon papers has taken responsibility for the 1993 attack on New York’s World Trade Centre and the Bali bombings in 2002. He has been described by the Bush administration as one of history’s most infamous terrorists and is the self-proclaimed head of al-Qaeda’s military committee.

Mr Mohammed was the first to dispense with his military lawyer and the first to make clear that he was seeking martyrdom. He even tried to get an assurance from the judge that he would receive the death penalty.

So what did the nine family members of the 9/11 victims – specially flown in to Guantanamo to witness the proceedings – make of it all? In a news conference at the end of the day they expressed a mixture of relief and loathing. But above all they spoke of a sense of “pride” in the fact that these men were in their view being given a “fair trial”. Maureen Santora – whose firefighter son was killed in the World Trade Centre – said she knew of “no other country that would do the same”.

Contrast that with the defence team, who gave their own news conference half an hour later. Micheal Berrigan – the Deputy Chief Defence Council – called it a “show trial” driven by politics – not the rule of law. Thomas Durkin, the civilian lawyer for Ramzi Binalshibh, went one step further, asking why the families were being invited now? He claimed it was an attempt to “politically blackmail” President-elect Barack Obama.

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