News / USA

Guantanamo Terror Suspect Hearings Off to Difficult Start

In this pool photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, three of the five Sept. 11 defendants, from left, Ramzi Binalshibh, Walid bin Attash and the self-proclaimed terrorist mastermind Khalid SheikhIn this pool photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, three of the five Sept. 11 defendants, from left, Ramzi Binalshibh, Walid bin Attash and the self-proclaimed terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh
x
In this pool photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, three of the five Sept. 11 defendants, from left, Ramzi Binalshibh, Walid bin Attash and the self-proclaimed terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh
In this pool photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, three of the five Sept. 11 defendants, from left, Ramzi Binalshibh, Walid bin Attash and the self-proclaimed terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh
Luis Ramirez
Pretrial hearings got under way at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Monday in the case of five men accused of masterminding the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.  
 
Among the big questions at the start of this set of hearings is how much of the trial should be held in secret and who has the power to censor statements made in court.
 
At one point in Monday's session, the audio feed through which reporters listened to the proceedings went dead during statements that military officials said may have contained classified or sensitive information.  
 
James Connell, a lawyer defending suspect Ali Abdel Aziz Ali, told reporters after Monday's session no one - including the judge - appeared to know who cut the feed. 
 
“The judge expressed surprise that the security device had been activated," he said. 
 
Judge James Pohl called for a clarification of who is allowed to censor court statements.  The court then went into a closed session.  
 
Monday's incident was an example of the snags that the military court is encountering in the U.S. government's efforts to present the trial as one that is open and fair.   
 
The U.S. came under international and domestic criticism for trying the men in a military court on this base in Cuba where some argued they would not be offered the same rights they would have if the trial was held in a civilian court on U.S. soil.
 
U.S. military court officials are under pressure to be open and transparent, while at the same time dealing with evidence that is, in some cases, classified.
 
For example, one of the motions being discussed this week is a request by defense attorneys for the U.S. government to preserve the so-called “black sites” - facilities in third countries where the suspects were allegedly tortured after their arrests. 
 
Victims' relatives who sat in on the proceedings have diverging views on whether the trial should be held in Guantanamo Bay as opposed to a civilian court in the United States.
 
Matthew Sellitto lost his son in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. 
 
“I think there'd be too much controversy back on the mainland - demonstrations, what have you.  I think this is the proper venue," he said. 
 
Phyllis Rodriguez' son was also killed in the attack on the towers.  She believes the case should have been tried in federal civilian court, because she says having it far from U.S. shores is causing many Americans to ignore the proceedings and forget those who died. 
 
“I feel it would have been much more open in federal court.  The public would have had more access. The media would have had more access.  You know, this is a trip to get here," she said. 
 
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks - and four others were arraigned last May on charges including conspiracy and nearly 3,000 counts of murder. 
 
One of the suspects, Walid bin Attash, fired one of his military lawyers.  In an outburst on Monday, he complained to the judge that he sees no point in coming to court, because he says the government is placing too many restrictions on his defense and said he does not trust his attorneys. 
 
The difficult start of these hearings is yet another indication of the complexity of the case and of how long the road to justice will be.  
 
Twelve years after the attacks, the court appears nowhere near setting a date for the start of the trial. 

You May Like

Photogallery Pope Condemns IS 'Persecution' of Minorities

Pope delivers annual 'Urbi et Orbi' (to the city and the world) blessing, appeals for end to conflicts in Africa, dialogue in Middle East, condemns Taliban attack in Pakistan More

China Reduces Number of Crimes Punishable by Death

Earlier this year China announced plans to remove nine crimes from the list of capital offenses, including counterfeiting, fraudulent fund-raising and forcing others into prostitution More

Analysis: Controversial Comedy Contains Dead-serious Dialogue

Most likely any North Koreans who might see 'The Interview' would be horribly offended and outraged, as well as confused More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syriai
X
Jeff Seldin
December 24, 2014 11:38 PM
Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.
Video

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.
Video

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.
Video

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.
Video

Video Russian Moves Provide New Mission for NATO

Russia’s more aggressive military posture in Europe during the past year has pushed NATO to take new steps to strengthen its defenses, providing it, analysts say, with a much-needed new mission. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid