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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Advocate Condemns 9/11 Trial

Michael Juliani |
October 18, 2012 | 12:10 p.m. PDT

Assistant News Editor

Guantanamo Bay protesters in 2007.  (Flickr Creative Commons)
Guantanamo Bay protesters in 2007. (Flickr Creative Commons)

Accused 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed arrived an hour and a half late to court on Wednesday for a pre-trial hearing in the case against him and four other co-defendants.

Mohammed, who supposedly confessed to being the mastermind behind the terrorist attack, told the court that the United States is guilty of using national security to justify torture and the murder of "millions" overseas.

"Your blood is not made out of gold and ours out of water," he said, according to RTT News.

At one point during his statement, Mohammed referred to Osama Bin Laden, saying that the president can even use national security as a measure to throw someone in the sea.

(MORE: 9/11 Mastermind Accuses U.S. Of Torture)

Mohammed's personal statements further the ongoing condemnation of the United States' treatment of political prisoners, especially at Guantanamo Bay, where Mohammed has been held since 2006.

Civil rights advocates have continually pressured a change to ensure that terrorist suspects, many of whom they say are arrested on little or no evidence, get due treatment under the law.

"There is no doubt that they have been tortured.  There is no doubt that there is no basis for their ongoing detention.  There is no doubt that the trial that is being provided them is a complete sham," said Dan Stormer, a prominent civil rights lawyer who has visited Guantanamo while defending an Afghan national who claims he's been wrongfully accused of being a terrorist.

"The idea that they are not given the basic due process rights of a prisoner of war when we have declared a war on terror is an affront to our system of justice," Stormer said, over the phone from his Pasadena office. 

Mohammed and his co-defendants could receive the death penalty if they're convicted.

Following Mohammed's free-flowing address to the court, Army Col. James Pohl, the judge overseeing the case, said that he wouldn't tolerate further statements of that kind.

Pohl said that he wouldn't interrupt the proceedings again to allow the defendants to speak personal thoughts on the status of their trial.

Stormer decried the fact that Guantanamo defendants are given military trials instead of jury trials.

"This type of 'we're not going to let anybody talk' could never happen in a civil courtroom," he said.

Wednesday, the third day of the hearings, also brought more courtroom deliberation of how to approach the discussion of supposedly classified information that the Americans worry might threaten national security.

The court must handle a constitutional mandate to make court proceedings public, according to RTT News.

"The idea that you can have evidence offered against you that you can't see, your lawyer can't see, you don't even know what it is is truly an affront to our system of justice," Stormer said.

This classified information includes the suspects' statements on CIA interrogation methods, CNN said.

CNN also said that the Obama administration released a 2005 Justice Department memo that showed that Mohammed was water-boarded in March 2003.

"How could they believe in this system of justice where [prisoners] have been tortured and the only response is 'well, we won't use the statements you made while being tortured against you,'" Stormer said. 

While Stormer made no claim on the possible guilt or innocence of the 9/11 defendants, he did say that many prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are held on minimal allegations.  

The U.S. government, he said, has refused to release some prisoners who have been ordered to be released, and others are being held without plans for trial.

"Our system of justice isn't based upon a concept that we get to minimize the rights of people because we have strong evidence that they're guilty," Stormer said.  "Our system of justice is that there is due process and openness in the judicial process."

Stormer gives President Obama credit for trying to close Guantanamo Bay.

"The Republicans rammed through this legislation that said that you can't bring any of these [prisoners] onto the American soil, even though local prison authorities were saying 'bring 'em down' because they wanted the business," Stormer said.

The 9/11 defendants will probably go on trial next summer. 


Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of Guantanamo Bay here.

Reach Assistant News Editor Michael Juliani here.




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