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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid