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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid