9/11 mastermind calls for death penalty
1 hour ago
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (AFP) — The alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks Thursday called to be sentenced to death so he could become a martyr at the start of a US military hearing of five alleged plotters.
"This is what I want, I'm looking to be a martyr for long time," Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, a Pakistani national, told the hearing at Guantanamo Bay as he was reminded by the military judge that he faced the death penalty.
"God is all sufficient for me," he translated into English as he read verses from the Koran, the Muslim holy book. He also threw out his appointed military and civilian defense team, saying he would defend himself.
Sheikh Mohammed, 43, has claimed to have been behind not just the September 11 attacks but also some 30 operations against the West in the past decade, according to transcripts of his interrogation released by the Pentagon.
His appearance on Thursday is the first time he has been seen in public since his capture in Pakistan on March 1, 2003.
Dressed in white but not handcuffed, he appeared along with four alleged co-conspirators at the hearing at the controversial US naval base in southern Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He and his alleged co-conspirators, Ramzi Binalshibh , Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Wallid bin Attash and Mustapha al-Hawsawi have been charged for their role in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon which killed some 3,000 people.
They all face the death penalty if convicted on charges including conspiracy, murder, attacking civilians, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property, terrorism, and material support for terrorism.
The men appeared relaxed as they chatted in Arabic before the hearing started at which the charges will be read by judge Colonel Ralph Kohlmann.
The judge opened the military commission by saying the government would consider any statements by the five as confidential because of their detentions in secret CIA prisons.
"Any statement by any of the detainees is presumptively classified," Kohlmann said.
That means there would be a 20-second delay before the defendants statements are broadcast by video to the nearby purpose-built press room in order to allow prosecutors to cut any sensitive information.
All five were to get the chance on Thursday to say if they accepted their military and civilian defense lawyers, and whether they wished to plead immediately on the charges.
All the suspects were arrested between 2002 and 2003, and transferred to the controversial base on Cuba in 2006, allegedly after spending years in secret CIA prisons.
The military tribunals have been mired in controversy since they were established by President George W. Bush at the end of 2001.
In 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled they were illegal, but then Congress adopted a new law allowing for them to be re-established and allowing indirect witness statements or testimony won under duress to be submitted as evidence.Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, legal advisor to the military commissions, said the defense team had been granted "extraordinary" rights.
But he noted that if they are acquitted, the suspects could still continue to be held until the end of the so-called "war on terror."