Alleged 9/11 mastermind ready to embrace death penalty

June 6th, 2008 - 11:09 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 6 (IANS) Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Pakistani mastermind of the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has told a US military court he would embrace the death penalty for his role in the strike. “Yes, this is what I wish, to be a martyr for a long time,” he told the military judge presiding over the case in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba

Thursday. “I will, God willing, have this by you”

“It is inquisition, (it) is not trial,” Mohammad said through a translator at his first court appearance since he was apprehended in Pakistan in 2003. He described the period as “five years of torturing” by American forces, US media reports said.

Referred to as ‘KSM’, he is being tried at the military base with four alleged co-conspirators who all face the death penalty for their role in the Sep 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The four others are: Ramzi Bin al Shibh, said to have been the main intermediary between the hijackers and Al Qaeda leaders; Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, known as Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew and lieutenant of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; al-Baluchi’s assistant, Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi; and Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, also known as Khallad.

The hearing was also the first public viewing of Mohammed since the Pentagon released a picture of him looking thick and dishevelled after his capture. On Thursday, he looked much skinnier, wore a thick, grey, foot-long beard and wore black wraparound glasses over a white headscarf.

He spoke and laughed with his co-conspirators throughout the session, who were each seated at their own table with defence lawyers and translators.

During a morning session, Mohammed and Attash rejected their military lawyers over the repeated insistence of Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, the military judge overseeing the case. He spoke with each of them about the importance of having an attorney represent them in the proceedings until he finally accepted their request to represent themselves.

Mohammed said he could not accept the assistance of anybody who had sworn his allegiance to the US Constitution and who represents a government that is waging a “crusade” against his people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bin Attash, who allegedly selected and trained some of the 19 hijackers who turned airplanes into missiles in the attacks, said he could also not accept government assistance because his younger brother was killed by US troops.

“I reject this session,” he said. “I don’t want anybody to represent me.”

Both indicated, however, that they would like attorneys to remain with them during the trial to advise them if they have any questions.

On the eve of Mohammed’s appearance, the Pentagon’s legal adviser to the commission said the military is eager to move forward with full, fair trials. “We are moving forward, not with potential but with reality,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann.

Hartmann faced repeated questions over the kind of evidence that will be used against Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators. Evidence obtained through harsh interrogations are allowed under the commission system established by President Bush, which was later cemented into law by Congress.

But Wednesday, Hartmann would not say whether evidence obtained through waterboarding - which simulates the sensation of drowning - would be allowed at trial. CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledged in Feburary that three detainees, including Mohammed, were subjected to waterboarding.

“The judge will make that determination,” Hartmann said. “The US does not have a policy on that.”

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