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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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