Accused September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others appeared in the military commissions court at the US naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba for the first time in more than 18 months
The trial of five men accused in the September 11 attacks restarted Tuesday just days before the 20th anniversary but quickly ground to a halt on technical issues, underscoring that victims of the Al-Qaeda plot could wait much longer for justice.
Accused September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others appeared in the military commissions court at the US naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba for the first time in more than 18 months after the death-penalty case emerged from a coronavirus-forced pause.
And a military appeals court’s new ruling supporting the destruction of a CIA black site where some of the defendants may have been tortured before they came to Guantanamo immediately turned the case back to its central issue: can men who underwent methodical torture be tried fairly with the due process promised by US law?
Tuesday’s session began with alleged 9/11 “architect” Mohammed, with a dense, greying red beard, striding into the courtroom with a military escort, followed one by one with his alleged co-conspirators Ammar al-Baluchi, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Mustafa al-Hawsawi.
In the public gallery, behind thick glass, were members of the families of the 2,976 people that they are accused of murdering almost exactly 20 years ago.
Bin Attash, who allegedly helped plan the 9/11 attacks, wore a pink keffiyeh headdress and a military desert camouflage jacket, walking slowly with a prosthetic on one leg he lost in a firefight in Afghanistan in 1996.
Baluchi, also known as Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and the nephew of Mohammed, revealed a short, black beard under his mask and wore a Sindhi cap of his native Balochistan, along with a traditional vest over his white robe. He is accused of handling money transfers in the plot.
– Eighth judge –
“Yes,” each answered, some in English and some in their own languages.
Defense attorneys said they were eager to continue where they stopped in February 2019, building a case to discredit the bulk of the prosecution’s evidence due to the torture the five endured while in CIA hands between 2002 and 2006.
But immediately an example of their uphill battle to obtain classified evidence surfaced, tied into McCall’s appointment.
In the meantime, before he became qualified last month, another judge was named to temporarily oversee the case.
Connell had appealed, but on Tuesday the military justice system’s appeals court ruled in favor of the destruction.
“The intentional destruction of evidence takes away from the defense, and really the American people, information about what actually happened,” he said.
Originally published as Trial of accused 9/11 mastermind resumes, days before 20th anniversary