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January 27, 2013

Hearings Resume for Terror Suspects at Guantanamo Bay

by Luis Ramirez

A second pretrial hearing gets under way Monday for the five men accused of masterminding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

The proceedings at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is the latest in what promises to be a long series of hearings to determine how to try the men in a way that is visibly fair and transparent.  

Two planes carrying defense lawyers, the prosecution team, victims' relatives and journalists arrived ahead of the pre-trial hearings in which lawyers for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others will try to get the military court to throw out the charges that include nearly 3,000 counts of murder.

A key issue in these proceedings is whether U.S. agents illegally subjected the men to torture in order to extract confessions.  

James Connell is a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Defense who was assigned to defend one of the suspects, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali.  He spoke to reporters and victims' relatives who gathered Sunday at a press center that has been set up inside an old airplane hangar a few meters from the courtroom.

“In the American system, a trial is intended as a search for truth," said Connell. "This motions hearing will begin to take a first step toward finding the truth about what happened in the torture of these men.”

The motions being heard this week include one by lawyers for the five men for the U.S. government to preserve the so-called “black sites” - clandestine facilities outside the United States where the suspects allege they were taken and tortured after they were arrested - before they were brought to Guantanamo Bay.

Other motions to be heard later in the week include one for the government to call top officials, including former U.S. president George W. Bush, to testify.