Tribunal begins for alleged “mastermind” of 9/11 attacks

June 5th, 2008 - 10:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), June 5 (DPA)- The military tribunal of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants accused of organizing the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks began Thursday at this remote US naval base in Cuba. Mohammed, believed to have once been Al Qaeda’s third-ranking operative and “mastermind” of the attacks, appeared for the first time in court with the other suspects to hear a reading of war crimes and other charges against them. If convicted, all five could be executed.

Mohammed sat unshackled at the front table with his attorneys and interpreter wearing a large white headscarf and tunic of the same colour. He was sporting a long, thick black and gray beard and was talkative before the proceedings begin.

The other four sat in succession behind him, also wearing white tunics. One of the defendants was locked in shackles.

Mohammed and the other defendants were to make statements but were not expected to enter pleas. The five detainees were held for years in secret CIA prisons after their capture before being transferred to military custody at Guantanamo in September 2006 to stand trial.

The court appearance marks the first time since their arrests the men have been seen publicly. The US military was not allowing photos or television broadcasts of the proceedings, but invited several dozen reporters and a handful of human rights activists to the base to watch.

The four other defendants are Ramzi bin al-Shibh, the alleged liaison between the hijackers and Al Qaeda’s leadership, Walid bin Attash, believed to have trained some of the hijackers, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Mohammed’s nephew and alleged deputy, and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, suspected of helping the hijackers enroll in flight schools.

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