The self-confessed mastermind and accused co-plotters of the 9/11 attacks on the United States have delayed entering a plea to murder and terrorism charges after a defiant appearance at a US military court.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants exercised their right to indefinitely delay entering a plea to murder and terrorism charges on Saturday as they appeared at an arraignment at a military tribunal at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was the first time the men had been seen in public in more than three years.
They are accused of planning and executing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, including 2,976 counts of murder. The charges can carry the death penalty.
The disorderly arrangement hearing, which should have taken a couple of hours at most, lasted almost 13 hours and was marked the defiance and regular outbursts of the defendants.
The proceedings got off to a rocky start, as one of the accused, Walid bin Attash was put in restraints. The five - Mohammed, Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali - also declined to respond to the judge's questions, removing their earphones over which they could hear a translation.
At one point the exasperated judge asked the four defendants, “Why is this so hard?"
Defense attorney David Nevin said Mohammed had refused to respond to the judge's questions because "“he is deeply concerned about the fairness of the proceeding" and had been tortured.
The military tribunal was adjourned until June 12. According to army Colonel James Pohl, it may be at least a year before the trial starts.
The CIA has admitted that Mohammed was subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding some 183 times. During that time he said he was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and numerous others.
A first attempt to put the men on trial in 2008 failed. At that time, Mohammed had mocked the court and said he and his co-defendants would plead guilty and welcomed the death penalty.
ccp,ncy/sb (AP, AFP, Reuters)