Saturday 20 January 2018

Trial of 9/11 plot accused will last years -- lawyers

Peter Foster in Washington

The trial of the five men accused of plotting the September 11 attacks could go on "for years", lawyers for both the defence and prosecution admitted yesterday.

The predictions came a day after the alleged ringleader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four co-defendants turned their arraignment at a Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunal into a 13-hour stand-off.

The accused appeared intent on delaying the process by refusing to answer questions.

Brigadier General Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor, said he fully expected the defence to file a barrage of motions complaining that the Guantanamo legal process was unfair and unconstitutional.

The trial date for the five accused, who face the death penalty if convicted of 2,976 counts of murder in the 2001 US terror attacks, is officially set for May 2013. However, James Connell, for the defence, said that date was only a "placeholder" until a more realistic timetable could be set.

The trial has been criticised by human-rights groups and former military lawyers for being too secretive and loaded in favour of the prosecution.

The accused were kept for several years in CIA 'black' sites without legal rights and subjected to treatment that the Red Cross said amounted to torture.

Mr Connell said the arraignment, in which the accused were given Pentagon-paid defence lawyers, offered an insight into the battle ahead.

"(It) demonstrates that this will be a long, hard-fought but peaceful struggle against secrecy, torture and the misguided institution of the military commissions," he said.

The defendants' actions outraged relatives of the victims.

"They're engaging in jihad in a courtroom," said Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles was the pilot of the plane that hit the Pentagon.

A handful of those who lost family members in the attacks were selected by a lottery and flown to watch the proceedings at the US naval base in Cuba.

It was the defendants' first appearance in more than three years after stalled efforts to try them for the terror attacks.

The Obama administration renewed plans to try the men at Guantanamo Bay after a bid to try them in New York, blocks from the Twin Towers site, hit opposition. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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