Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Don't close Gitmo yet: Detainees ready to confess

 Gitmo detainees ready to confess
WASHINGTON: In an unprecedented turn of events, five men charged with plotting the Sept. 11 attacks told a military judge at Guantanamo yesterday that they wanted to immediately confess and plead guilty.
The five defendants — who could be executed if convicted of a role in killing 2,973 people in the 9/11 suicide plane attacks — said they "request an immediate hearing session to announce our confessions."
When the judge at the pretrial hearing, Army Col. Stephen Henley, asked Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the self-described 'mastermind' of the 9/11 attacks, and his four co-defendants if they were prepared to enter a plea, Mohammed said: "Yes. We don't want to waste time," and gave him a letter which the judge then read aloud in court:
"We all five have reached an agreement to request from the commission an immediate hearing session in order to announce our confessions... with our earnest desire in this regard without being under any kind of pressure, threat, intimidations or promise from any party."
The letter implied they want to plead guilty, but did not specify whether they will admit to any specific charges. It also said they wished to drop all previous defense motions.
Mohammed earlier said he wished to be executed and achieve martyrdom, but still put together a defense.
With time running out on the administration of President George Bush, and with his successor, President-elect Barack Obama, saying he wants to close the Cuban detention facility, analysts said Mohammed and the others may see guilty pleas for the Sept. 11 attacks as the only way they can draw death sentences and die as martyrs.
The Kuwaiti-born suspect also told the judge that he did not trust his military-appointed lawyer.
Mohammed previously told interrogators he was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Sporting a chest-length gray beard, Mohammed said in English: "I don't trust you."
The defendants had been expected to call the military commissions' former legal adviser, Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, as well as the current legal adviser, Michael Chapman, as witnesses in a bid to dismiss the case due to unlawful political influence over commission proceedings, Human Rights Watch said.
No date has been set for the five men's full military tribunal, and their appearance in court yesterday followed hearings held under a judge who resigned last month.
The pretrial hearings this week could be the last court appearance for the high-profile detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The first US war-crimes trials since World War II face an uncertain future.
President-elect Obama opposes the Guantanamo trials, and pledged to close the detention center which holds some 250 men, soon after he takes office next month.
It's a tough decision. To empty the camp, his team must decide whether to move the detainees at Guantánamo all at once and to where, as well as how to try those accused of crimes and whether to scrap the military commissions.
On Sunday, the Pentagon airlifted 50 reporters to Guantánamo to watch the proceedings, for the first time. The prison is located in a remote patch of a US Navy base on land leased from Cuba.
Also on board were the parents of some of the Sept. 11 victims, killed after hijackers slammed jets into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
Nine relatives of victims of the 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks were on hand to observe the hearings, but were not visible in video images relayed to a press room nearby. Five were chosen by military lottery and they brought four other relatives with them.
The other co-defendants are:
• Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni described by the US as the coordinator of the 9/11 attacks who, according to intelligence officials, was supposed to have been one of the hijackers, but was unable to get a US visa;
• Mustafa Ahmad Al-Hawsawi, a Saudi man said by US intelligence officials to be one of two key financiers used by Mohammed to arrange the funding for the Sept. 11 hijackings;
• Ali Abd Al-Aziz Ali, also known as Amar Al-Balochi, who is accused of serving as a key lieutenant to Mohammed, his uncle;
• Walid Bin Attash, a Yemeni national who, according to the Pentagon, has admitted masterminding the bombing of the American destroyer USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, and is also accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

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