Processo 11 settembre, accusato vuole la pena di morte
GUANTANAMO, Cuba - L'uomo accusato di essere la mente di al Qaeda nell'organizzazione degli attentati dell'11 settembre del 2001 è comparso oggi davanti alla Corte militare degli Stati Uniti, ha cantato una preghiera ad Allah e ha detto di accettare volentieri la pena di morte.
"Questo è ciò che voglio, diventare un martire", ha detto alla Corte militare per i crimini di guerra di Guantanamo il detenuto pakistano Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, il più alto quadro della sezione operativa di Al Qaeda in mano agli Usa.
Lui e gli altri quattro attentatori accusati degli attacchi sono apparsi oggi per la prima volta davanti alla Corte, che potrebbe decidere di punire gli imputati con la pena di morte.
Quando il giudice ha chiesto a Mohammed se fosse soddisfatto dell'avvocato militare assegnatogli, l'imputato si è alzato in piedi e ha iniziato a cantare in arabo, fermandosi di volta in volta per tradurre in inglese le sue parole.
"Il mio scudo è Allah", ha detto, aggiungendo che la sua religione gli proibisce di accettare un avvocato statunitense e di voler difendersi da solo.
Ha poi criticato gli Stati Uniti per la guerra intrapresa in Afghanistan e in Iraq, che ha definito una "crociata", e per aver approvato leggi "illegali" tra cui quella che autorizza matrimoni tra le persone dello stesso sesso.
Il giudice, il colonnello della Marina Ralph Kohlmann, ha cercato di convincere Mohammed ad accettare un avvocato, dicendogli che "rappresentare se stesso è una cattiva idea".
Mohammed, catturato in Pakistan nel marzo del 2003, e i co-imputati Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi e Walid bin Attash, sono accusati di aver commesso atti di terrorismo e cospirazione per Al Qaeda finalizzati all'uccisione di civili, negli attacchi che hanno dato il via alla guerra globale al terrore lanciata dall'amministrazione Bush.
Gli imputati dovranno rispondere anche della morte di 2.973 persone, uccise nel 2001 quando alcuni aerei passeggeri sono stati dirottati per poi schiantarsi contro le Torri Gemelle, il Pentagono e un campo della Pennsylvania.
Secondo quanto si legge nel trascritto dell'esercito Usa di un'udienza dello scorso anno, Mohammed aveva detto al comitato militare di essersi messo in contatto con Osama bin Laden con la proposta di dirottare degli aerei verso edifici statunitensi, e di aver supervisionato l'esecuzione di tutto il piano "dalla A alla Z".
Ma Mohammed ha sollevato dei dubbi sul trascritto durante l'udienza di oggi.
"Hanno frainteso le mie parole e mi hanno messo in bocca parole che non ho detto", ha detto in inglese. "Tutto questo è stato fatto sotto tortura, e lo sapete molto bene".
Gli altri imputati sono accusati di aver selezionato, addestrato e finanziato i 19 dirottatori, iscrivendoli alla scuola di volo e assistendoli nei viaggi verso gli Stati Uniti.
L'accusa vorrebbe dare inizio al processo il prossimo 15 settembre, una data che secondo la difesa è stata scelta per influenzare il voto delle elezioni presidenziali Usa del prossimo novembre.
Tutti e cinque gli imputati, a cui potrebbe essere comminata la pena di morte se condannati, sono stati trasferiti a Guantanamo nel settembre del 2006, dopo aver trascorso circa tre anni in carceri segrete della Cia.
La Cia ha ammesso di aver interrogato Mohammed attraverso l'uso della pratica di affogamento simulato chiamata "waterboarding", condannata come tortura dalle associazioni per i diritti umani, e la difesa ha dichiarato che cercherà di contrastare qualsiasi prova che risulti da confessioni ottenute con tale metodo
9/11 suspects reject defense lawyers at Guantanamo despite facing death penalty
The accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks said he welcomed martyrdom at U.S. hands, as he and four codefendants asked to be tried for war crimes without the benefit of lawyers.
Thursday's arraignment at this isolated U.S. Navy base marked the first time that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the former No. 3 leader of al-Qaida, has been seen since he was captured in Pakistan in 2003.
Mohammed said he would welcome being executed after the judge warned him he faces the death penalty if convicted of organizing the attacks on America.
"Yes, this is what I wish, to be a martyr for a long time," Mohammed said. "I will, God willing, have this, by you.
Mohammed wore dark-framed prison-issue glasses, a turban and a bushy, gray beard, and was noticeably thinner - a stark change from the slovenly man with disheveled hair, unshaven face and T-shirt from the widely distributed photograph after his capture in Pakistan. He looked older than his 45 years.
One of the civilian attorneys he spurned, David Nevin, later told The Associated Press that he would attempt to meet with Mohammed to «hear him out and see if we can give him information that is helpful.
Asked how any attorney could defend a man who wants the death penalty, the Boise, Idaho, lawyer said: "It's a tricky matter. I don't have a good answer for you." Waleed bin Attash, who allegedly selected and trained some of the hijackers, asked the judge whether the Sept. 11 defendants - who all face possible death sentences - would be buried at Guantanamo or if their bodies would be shipped home if they were executed.
Judge Ralph Kohlmann, a Marine colonel with a crewcut who was dressed in black robes, refused to address the question.
The five co-defendants were at turns cordial and defiant at their arraignment, the first U.S. attempt to try in court those believed to be directly responsible for killing 2,973 people in the bloodiest terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil. All 5 said they would represent themselves.
But defense attorneys said 4 men intimidated a fifth defendant to join them in declaring they didn't want attorneys.
At a news conference, the military defense attorneys denounced the court for allowing the defendants to talk among themselves before and during their joint arraignment, saying this is when Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi was pressured into going without a lawyer.
"It was clear Mr. Mohammed was trying to intimidate Mr. Hawsawi," said Army Maj. Jon Jackson, his lead military attorney. "He was shaking." Chief military defense counsel Stephen David, an Army colonel, said the fact that the alleged coconspirators were allowed to talk unhindered in the courtroom in their first meeting since they were captured years ago was troubling.
"We will have to investigate," David said.
The other defendants appeared to be in robust health but al-Hawsawi, who allegedly helped the Sept. 11 hijackers with money and Western-style clothing, looked thin and frail and sat on a pillow on his chair.
Army Col. Lawrence Morris, the chief prosecutor at the military trials here, said his office was not responsible for controlling when defendants talk to each other, but added that they should not be pressured into renouncing their lawyers.
"The government is as concerned as the defense on the integrity over counsel relationships," he said.
The war-crimes tribunal is the highest-profile test yet of the military's tribunal system, which faces an uncertain future. The tribunals have faced repeated legal setbacks, including a Supreme Court appeal on the rights of Guantanamo detainees that could produce a ruling this month halting the proceedings.
The arraignment, in which no pleas were entered, indicated that hatred for the United States among some of the defendants remains at a boil.
One defendant said he deeply regrets not joining the hijackers who crashed passenger airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
"I have been seeking martyrdom for 5 years," said Ramzi Binalshibh, the alleged main intermediary between the 19 hijackers and al-Qaida leaders. "I tried for 9/11 to get a visa but I could not.
Asked if he understands that he could be executed if found guilty, Binalshibh said: «If this martyrdom happens today, I welcome it. God is great. God is great. God is great.
Mohammed, seated at the defense table closest to the judge, was careful not to interrupt him. He lost his composure only after the Marine colonel ordered several defense attorneys to keep quiet.
"It's an inquisition. It's not a trial," Mohammed said in broken English, his voice rising. "After torturing they transfer us to inquisition-land in Guantanamo.
As the judge closed the session, which lasted nearly 10 hours with breaks, he asked the defendants to rise, but they refused. He said he would set a trial schedule later.
The trial also threatens to expose harsh interrogation techniques used on the men, who were in CIA custody before being transferred to Guantanamo in 2006.
The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has acknowledged that Mohammed was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding - a technique that gives the sensation of drowning - in secret CIA custody before he was transferred to Guantanamo in 2006. His attorneys have said they will challenge evidence obtained through coercion.
The military tribunals plan to allow coerced testimony, although evidence obtained by torture is not allowed. Air Force Brig. Gen. Tom Hartmann, a top tribunal official, told reporters it was up to the judge to determine whether to allow as evidence statements obtained during waterboarding. Mohammed said he was tortured after being captured in Pakistan in 2003 but didn't elaborate, indicating he understood he should not discuss it in the courtroom.
"I can't mention about the torturing," said Mohammed, who received an engineering degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. "I know this is the red line." The other defendants are Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, known as Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew and lieutenant of Mohammed; and Waleed bin Attash, who allegedly selected and trained some of the hijackers.
New York Times
Arraigned, 9/11 Defendants Talk of Martyrdom
When at last he got the chance to speak, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed planner of the Seept. 11 attacks, on Thursday called President Bush a crusader and ridiculed the trial system here as an inquisition.
Mr. Mohammed, the former senior operations chief for Al Qaeda, said he would represent himself and dared the Guantánamo tribunal to put him to death.
"This is what I want," he told a military judge here, in his 1st appearance to answer war crimes charges for the terrorism attacks that killed 2,973 people and set America on a path to war.
"I'm looking to be martyr for long time," he said in serviceable English, improved, perhaps, by five years of custody, including three in secret C.I.A. prisons.
The arraignment on Thursday of Mr. Mohammed and four other detainees the government says were high-level coordinators of the Sept. 11 attacks was the start of hearings in the case, which is the centerpiece of the Bush administration's war crimes system here.
But it was also the first public appearance by Mr. Mohammed, who has long cast himself in the role of superterrorist, claiming responsibility in the past not only for the 2001 plot, but for some 30 others, including the murder of Daniel Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
A bushy gray beard all but covered Mr. Mohammed's face, so familiar from the well-known photograph of him in a baggy undershirt that was taken the day of his capture in Pakistan in 2003. On Thursday, he worked to get as much control as possible over the proceedings.
Peering through big black-rimmed glasses, he rejected American lawyers as agents of the Bush administration's "crusade war against Islamic world." He said the lawyers could stay to help him as advisers.
He quickly staked out his position as the leader of the accused men. He gestured to them, shared animated conversations while the proceedings droned on and, at one point, turned his chair toward the back of the courtroom to face his co-defendants, lined up in a row behind him.
His strategy seemed to work. One of the detainees, a military lawyer said, decided to reject his lawyers on Thursday, after a few minutes in the courtroom. Another, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, was intimidated by Mr. Mohammed, said his designated lawyer, Maj. Jon Jackson.
By day's end, each of Mr. Mohammed's 4 co-defendants had said he wanted to represent himself. That could turn a trial into a jumble of rhetoric and a new opportunity for critics to attack the Guantánamo system as designed to get easy convictions.
Each of the 5 men remained seated when the judge asked that they rise for the formal arraignment.
"I reject this session," said Walid bin Attash, a detainee known as Khallad, who investigators say selected and trained some of the hijackers. Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was to have been one of the hijackers, said that he too, like Mr. Mohammed, was ready for martyrdom.
He recalled that he had "tried for 9/11" but was denied an American visa so had missed his chance.
The judge, Col. Ralph H. Kohlmann, agreed to permit 3 of the men to represent themselves. He said he wanted more information on Major Jackson's assertion. In Mr. Shibh's case, he said he wanted to investigate a new report on Thursday from a military lawyer that Mr. Shibh has been on psychotropic medication.
When Judge Kohlmann asked Mr. Shibh why he was taking the medication, security officials cut the sound fed to reporters in a glassed-in gallery and a satellite press center. It was one of half a dozen times in a long court day when a private national-security consultant to the court cut the sound when detainees appeared to be discussing what several of them said had been years of torture.
Mr. Mohammed managed to get the reference through the censor twice.
"After torturing," he said, warming to his subject, "they transfer us to Inquisitionland in Guantánamo." Central Intelligence Agency officials have said that Mr. Mohammed was 1 of 3 detainees subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding.
The sound was cut twice when Mr. Mohammed seemed to be discussing his claim.
He was far from shy, and he looked lean compared with the photograph taken of him after his 2003 capture. He chanted verses in Arabic and then translated them into English. He vied with Judge Kohlmann for control of the courtroom.
"Go ahead," he told the judge from time to time when there was a pause, as if he, at the shiny new defense table in a specially built courtroom here, and not the man in the black robe on the bench, were in charge.
He was, Mr. Mohammed said cheerfully, unable to accept lawyers who knew little of Islamic law. He asked that the 5 men facing terrorism, conspiracy and other charges for the Sept. 11 attacks be permitted to meet. They needed, he said, to plan "one front." The request for a meeting, like most requests from the defense on Thursday, was rejected by Judge Kohlmann.
All 5 accused men were held in the secret C.I.A. program and transferred to Guantánamo to face charges in the military commission system.
"Sit down," the judge barked out a few times as defense lawyers assigned to the cases by the military and by the American Civil Liberties Union tried to slow the proceedings.
The lawyers said that Mr. Mohammed and the other men had not had enough opportunity to meet with them. As a result, they said, the detainees could not understand the implications of representing themselves with their lives potentially on the line. No one would prevail with the argument that the arraignment could not proceed as scheduled, Judge Kohlmann announced.
The Pentagon has been pressing to move its war crimes cases quickly after years of delays and legal setbacks. Critics, including a former chief military prosecutor, have said there is intense political pressure to start the trials by the end of the Bush administration.
The Pentagon general who has become the most visible advocate of the commission system, Thomas W. Hartmann, has repeatedly said that accelerating the filing and prosecution of charges is not motivated by politics.
Whatever the motivation, it was clear inside the wire of the new court complex in the bright sun here that the Guantánamo trial system had begun its most important test. Reporters from Italy, Pakistan, Britain and Canada mixed with Americans crowded into a press center for the first glimpse of Mr. Mohammed and his co-defendants.
The expansive new courtroom, built specifically for the Sept. 11 case, provided an austere setting. It is a big, windowless white room, decorated only with a large American flag and the seals of each of the American military branches.
The reporters and a handful of observers from human rights, military and legal groups sat in an observation room at the rear. Sound to the room was delayed 20 seconds, so people in the proceedings rose and sat on occasion before their voices could be heard.
In the courtroom, the prosecutors sat to the right at 3 long tables. On the left, there were 6 long tables, the final one unused. At the end of each table, a detainee sat, in a white prison uniform. Only one, Mr. Shibh, was shackled to the floor.
Mr. Mohammed, who is sometimes known as K.S.M., was at the first table. He could not, he explained, work easily with lawyers trained in the American legal system, which he described as evil. "They allow same sexual marriage," he said, "and many things are very bad." He held his own in rapid fire back-and-forth with the judge dealing with the particulars of the proceedings, but then would retreat into another world. When Judge Kohlmann explained the risks of going through a death penalty case without a lawyer, Mr. Mohammed answered: "Nothing shall befall us, save what Allah has ordained for us."