NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Military installations in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland are welcoming families of 9/11 victims this week to watch pretrial hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for five men charged in the terrorist attacks.
Seven family members were viewing the proceedings Monday via closed-circuit television at Fort Hamilton, a U.S. Army base in Brooklyn.
“It’s very hard to go into those courtrooms,” said Jim Riches, whose firefighter son, Jimmy, died at the World Trade Center. “You sit there and you watch these men smirk and laugh and say that they’re proud of what they did and then nothing gets done. There’s nothing but motions and movements. The trial hasn’t even started yet.”
The Fairbens of Floral Park lost their son on 9/11 and said they wanted to watch the proceedings at Fort Hamilton to ensure justice is served.
“I want the people responsible to pay the consequences,” Diane Fairben told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.
But Kenneth Fairben suggested the terror suspects are given too many rights at Gitmo.
“I can’t imagine us getting the same kind of considerations that these folks are getting. Amazing,” Kenneth Fairben told Dennis after watching day one of the pretrial hearings. “To think that they would not do the same to you, you’re sadly mistaken. Sadly mistaken. Given the opportunity, they would inflict the same harm on you as they did to almost 3,000 people that day.”
Former FDNY firefighter Robert Reeg was seriously injured in the South Tower collapse and said it was important for him to watch the hearing from Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn.
“Many of my brother firefighters I was with that day were killed. I saw numerous people jump from the upper floors. I’ll be scarred by that memory for the rest of my life and I want to see justice,” Reeg told Dennis.
Some family members said they hope the five terror suspects are not given the death penalty that they’re seeking if convicted, because that would allow them to become martyrs, the families said.
Instead, they said they want to see the defendants locked up for life so they can think about the lives lost in the attacks.
1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reports
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.
Debra Burlingame, whose brother, Charles, was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, said it was disturbing to watch the suspects showing disrespect to the court and their own attorneys during the spring hearings.
“One of the defendants made a paper airplane and balanced it on the top of the microphone to mock the victims and their families,” Burlingame said.
She plans to attend the latest round of hearings sometime this week and feels she needs to be there to see what the rest of the world can’t.
“I think it’s very important for the world at large to know that the families have not forgotten,” Burlingame said.
The suspects include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
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. They could get the death penalty if convicted.
On Monday, the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, started the pretrial hearing that is expected to last a week to consider about two dozen preliminary legal issues required to move the case toward an eventual trial, likely at least a year away.
WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reports
Riches is hoping the case will finally move forward.
“We were promised swift and certain justice from President Obama in February ’09 when we met with him,” Riches said. “Hopefully this will move forward now because it’s been 10 years, we’ve had no justice.”
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