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9/11 Suspects Get New Hearings at Guantanamo

  • Luis Ramirez

Another round of pre-trial hearings is set to get under way next week at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind, and four other suspects accused in the September 11th, 2001 attacks.

More than 11 years after the attacks, the case drags on in a Guantanamo Bay naval base courtroom.

The proceedings are best characterized by the defiance and antics displayed by alleged ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other suspects -- accused of nearly 3,000 counts of murder.

At their arraignment in May, the suspects ignored the judge, had an outburst, and one of them began undressing in front of the court.

This set of hearings will have the defense trying to get the charges thrown out -- on the argument that the proceedings are illegitimate. Defense attorneys want former U.S. President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be called as witnesses -- to testify on their role in ordering alleged torture and establishing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Jennifer Daskal, a Georgetown University law professor who has been vocal on the Guantanamo proceedings, says the suspects’ antics would likely not have gone so far if the case were being tried in a U.S. federal civilian court.

“The judge and the participants, they’re bending over backwards to make it appear as if the system is fair. And so, in a situation like that, the judge, it appears to me, is giving the defendants way more leeway than you would ever see in federal court where judges would just shut those kinds of antics down in an instant,” Daskal said.

The U.S. government’s decision to hold the trial at Guantanamo Bay and keep detainees imprisoned there has sparked protests among American anti-war activists.

President Obama promised to close it down, but did not.

Daskal was among those calling for closure of the facility when it first opened. But she has since changed her mind.

“There are no more tortures going on in Guantanamo, and conditions have improved significantly. The thing that we’re left with is detention without charge, and, in the current political and legal climate, closing Guantanamo is not going to change that. Closing Guantanamo simply means moving some core subset of Guantanamo detainees to some other place where they’re detained without charge and most likely in much worse conditions,” Daskal said.

It is not clear whether the five defendants will show up for these hearings.

But a few relatives of some of the nearly 3,000 victims will be there -- as they have been since the start of the proceedings. For them, the wait for justice continues.
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