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9/11 Victims' Families Watch Closely as Guantanamo Hearings Begin

  • Luis Ramirez

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey — Hearings are getting under way at U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ahead of the trial of five suspects accused of masterminding the September 11th attacks. The process is expected to be a long and tedious one and the start of the trial is several months away. The families of victims are watching closely.

The trial will happen far away - in both time and distance - from the destruction of September 11th, 2001.

Judi Jackson Reiss lost her 23-year-old son, Josh, in the World Trade Center attack. To this day, this memorial across the river in New Jersey is as close as she can bring herself to the place where her son died.

For Reiss, the horrible memories are fresh. But she fears many Americans are starting to forget.

“I’ve heard people tell me they’re tired of hearing about it or it’s not going to happen, [that] ‘we’re much safer,’" she said. "But we haven’t learned from our history and that’s a bad thing.”

Reiss is watching these proceedings closely.

“It is a horrible, tedious process for many, many reasons," she said. "But it needs to work to show the world that our system is good and it does work.”

The hearings will review motions ahead of the trial of self-proclaimed mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four others accused of planning the attacks. Among other things, the court will have to work to keep the case on track.

During their arraignment on murder and conspiracy charges in May, the suspects refused to answer the judge’s questions. One suspect undressed in front of the judge. They have called the military tribunal unfair, and allege they have been tortured.

Some human rights groups say the tribunals violate the suspects' rights and that they should be tried in civilian courts. The U.S. government denies those allegations. Brigadier General Mark Martins is the chief prosecutor for these cases.

"The law prohibits the use of any statement obtained as the result of torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. And we will implement the law," said General Martins.

Betsy Parks, who lost her brother in the attack, says their behavior showed the contempt the suspects have for the United States, which is one reason why she thinks the decision to try them offshore is a good one.

“Their terrorist actions on September 11th were an act of war," she said. "They don’t deserve the privilege of the U.S. court system.”

The trial will not bring back Judi Jackson Reiss’ son and the nearly 3,000 others who perished on September 11th. What is most important for her is that justice march forward.

“This is probably one of the worst things that has ever happened, if not the worst, in this country and we need to show the world that our system works and I need justice for my son,” Reiss said.

She believes that holding the trial - even 11 years later - will keep September 11th alive in the American consciousness.
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