Five charged in 9/11 attacks return to Guantanamo court

Unlike last time, no disruptions

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — Five Guantanamo prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attacks returned before a military tribunal Monday, forgoing the protests that turned their last appearance into an unruly 13-hour spectacle.

But the apparent cooperation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has said he planned the worst terror attack on US soil, and four codefendants did little to speed up proceedings that have been stuck in a legal and political morass for years.

Mohammed made clear he still feels a deep disdain for the proceedings, saying, ‘‘I don’t think there is any justice in this court.’’


Defense lawyers spent hours arguing that their clients should not have to attend the hearing, saying such proceedings dredge up memories of their harsh treatment in CIA detention. The military judge ruled that the men would not have to attend the hearings at least for the rest of the week.

Get Ground Game in your inbox:
Daily updates and analysis on national politics from James Pindell.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

‘‘Our clients may believe that . . . ‘I don’t want to be subjected to this procedure that transports me here, brings up memories, brings up emotions of things that happened to me,’ ’’ said Jim Harrington, who represents Ramzi Binalshibh, accused of helping to provide support to the hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.

Some family members of the Sept. 11 victims have been chosen by lottery to attend the hearings. Other families and the public were invited to view the proceedings from closed-circuit video at military centers in Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.

The five defendants sat quietly at the defense tables under the watchful eyes of military guards and family members at the US base in Cuba. Mohammed, his beard dyed a rust color with henna, serenely read legal papers. Two others responded politely to the judge when asked.

All seemed to cooperate with their attorneys in a specially designed high-tech courtroom that allows the government to muffle sounds so spectators behind a glass wall cannot hear classified information.


The orderly scene was in stark contrast to their arraignment in May on charges that include terrorism and murder. At that session, one prisoner was briefly restrained for acting out, Binalshibh launched into an incoherent rant, the men generally ignored the judge and refused to use the court translation system. Two stood up to pray at one point.

Harrington told the court that the defendants may want to boycott future court sessions because they do not recognize the US government’s authority, or because their transportation from their high-security cells may remind them of the harsh treatment they endured when confined in the CIA’s overseas network of secret prisons before they came to Guantanamo in September 2006.