Victims’ Families Invited To Watch 9/11 Mastermind, Plotters Pretrial Hearings
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The families of 9/11 victims will be able to watch pretrial hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from military installations in four states.
The hearings set to begin Monday are closed to the public, but victims’ families were invited to watch the proceedings via closed-circuit television.
Five men charged with planning or assisting the terror attack on the World Trade Center are due to appear at the hearings, including self-professed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Family members who registered in advance will be able to watch the proceedings from forts in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
An earlier round of hearings in May was also broadcast via closed-circuit TV to family members, survivors and first responders who wished to see the hearings.
Those proceedings were an exercise in frustration for some viewers, as the suspects refused to cooperate with the court, or interrupted proceedings to kneel in prayer.
Jim Riches, whose firefighter son, Jimmy, died at the World Trade Center, said he planned to view Monday’s hearing at Fort Hamilton, in Brooklyn.
“It’s difficult for the families. But it is 10 years later, and we have no justice,” Riches said. “I just wish it was being broadcast throughout the whole world so everyone could see it, and could see what these guys are like.”
The nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks each have many relatives who could see the trial, but attendance at the first round of hearings last spring was light, with only a few dozen people at each site.
Riches said he didn’t expect a large crowd for Monday’s session either, largely due to the pain of reliving the attacks.
“A lot of people are moving on with their lives. A lot of people are just trying to forget about it and move on. But you can’t, really. They aren’t going to walk back in through the door,” he said, referring to the victims.
The start of the terror suspects’ actual military tribunal will not happen until next year.
The five defendants are held in a section of Guantanamo that is under such tight security even its exact location on the base is classified, a prison-within-a-prison known as Camp 7.
Before the May hearing, they had not been seen in public since the day after President Obama’s inauguration when the commission held a hearing to continue their case.
New rules adopted by Congress and Obama forbid the use of testimony obtained through cruel treatment or torture.
The defendants were held at secret CIA prisons overseas where they were subjected to what the government called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times, officials have said.
Mohammed, a Pakistani citizen who grew up in Kuwait and attended college in Greensboro, North Carolina, confessed to military authorities that he planned or carried out about 30 plots around the world. He admitted personally killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and said he conceived the plot to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight by would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid in 2001. Mohammed was captured in 2003 in Pakistan.
His four co-defendants are accused of support roles in the Sept. 11 attacks: Binalshibh, a Yemeni, was allegedly chosen to be a hijacker but couldn’t get a U.S. visa and ended up providing assistance such as finding flight schools; Waleed bin Attash, also from Yemen, allegedly ran an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan and researched flight simulators and timetables; Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, a Saudi accused of helping the hijackers with money, Western clothing, traveler’s checks and credit cards; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, a Pakistani national and nephew of KSM, allegedly provided money to the hijackers.
All five face charges that include 2,976 counts of murder, one for each person killed in the Sept. 11 plot that sent hijacked commercial airliners slamming into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Human rights groups and many members of the legal community have said the reforms to the military tribunals have not gone far enough and the only legitimate way to prosecute Mohammed is in a civilian court, not a commission with a jury of Pentagon-appointed military officers and an Army colonel for a judge.
Even with the changes, the defense lawyers say the commissions are anything but fair.
They complain that their mail is improperly reviewed by the military, interfering with attorney-client privilege, that they aren’t given enough resources to investigate cases the government spent years building, that too many hearings are still held in secret and that they are barred from disclosing anything their clients tell them.
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