A week of pretrial hearings began on Monday (January 28) in the war crimes tribunal for five alleged 9/11 conspirators at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.
The defendants include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the hijacked plane attacks that killed 2,976 people on September 11, 2001, and four others accused of training and aiding the hijackers: Mohammed's nephew, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali, Yemenis Walid bin Attash and Ramzi Binalshibh and Saudi Mustafa al Hawsawi.
More than two dozen issues are on the docket for the week of hearings. Lawyers for the five accused claim the men were tortured in secret CIA prisons and have asked a U.S. military judge to order that the prisons be preserved as evidence. They have also asked the judge to order the U.S. government to turn over all White House or Justice Department documents authorizing the CIA to move suspected al Qaeda captives across borders without judicial review and to hold and interrogate them in secret prisons after the September 11 attacks.
President George W. Bush announced in 2006 that the 9/11 defendants were among a group of "high-value" captives sent to Guantanamo from the secret prisons.
The CIA has acknowledged that Mohammed was subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, and the defendants said they were also subjected to sleep deprivation, threats, and being chained in painful positions.
The defense lawyers will argue that their clients' treatment was illegal pretrial punishment and constituted "outrageous government misconduct" that could justify dismissal of the charges, or at least spare the defendants from execution if convicted.
The accused have been in U.S. custody for a decade but there are still numerous legal and evidentiary issues that must be resolved before their trial begins on charges that include murder, hijacking, terrorism and attacking civilians.
Video Source: Reuters