Lawyers for 9/11 suspects argue President Obama and other US leaders have tainted trial with 'presumed guilt'
Charges should be dropped against five Guantanamo Bay detainees suspected of involvement in September 11 because President Barack Obama and other US leaders have made too many comments to ensure a fair trial, defense lawyers have argued in a military court on Friday.
Lawyer Walter Ruiz said Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other high-ranking US officials made "toxic comments over time" about the presumed guilt of Pakistan-born Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who took credit for organising the hijacking of the two planes used to crash into the World Trade towers in 2001 - killing nearly 3,000 people.
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"The appearance of unlawful influence is squarely upon these commissions," said Mr Ruiz, who represents co-defendant Mustafa al-Hawsawi, a Saudi man accused of helping to orchestrate the attacks by Islamist extermists.
During a 2007 hearing at Guantanamo Bay, the US military prison in Cuba, Mr Mohammed said he organised the attacks "from A to Z."
Friday's hearing was monitored by closed circuit television from a media center at Fort Meade, outside Washington.
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Mr Ruiz played previously televised clips of government officials' remarks for Judge Army Colonel James Pohl.
In one interview, President Obama said he expected Mr Mohammed to be convicted and sentenced to death.
"There is no way to eliminate the taint," said Marine Major Derek Poteet, his defence lawyer.
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Prosecutor Robert Swann disagreed with these arguments, saying "while there's no dispute about what the president or others have said... it does not constitute unlawful influence."
Mr Swann said government leaders had made roughly 75 statements about the presumed guilt of the men over the last decade.