Let us talk to Sept 11 planner, U.S. lawyers ask

Fri Feb 8, 2008 4:44pm EST
 
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By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - Military lawyers defending Osama bin Laden's former driver on terrorism charges in the U.S. war court at Guantanamo Bay have offered a compromise in their quest to interview September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

They promised not to ask Mohammed about his treatment in U.S. custody or about the CIA's admission that it subjected him to a simulated drowning technique known as "waterboarding" during interrogations.

Bin Laden's former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 and faces life in prison if convicted in the Guantanamo court of conspiring with al Qaeda and providing material support for terrorism.

The Yemeni man said he never joined al Qaeda, had no advance knowledge of its attacks and became bin Laden's driver in Afghanistan because he needed the salary of $200 per month.

Hamdan's lawyers said Mohammed -- the highest-ranking al Qaeda leader held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- can help their defense by telling them what role, if any, Hamdan had in the organization.

They likened it to somebody "on trial for organized crime and you've got the opportunity to bring in the godfather."

The request was still pending when a pretrial hearing ended on Thursday but the military judge suggested he might at least let the lawyers question Mohammed via written notes.

The judge is expected to rule in the next couple of weeks and Hamdan is scheduled to go to trial in May. So far, only one captive -- an Australian man -- has been convicted by the widely criticized court and that was in a plea bargain.   Continued...

 
<p>Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is seen shortly after his March 2003 arrest. Military lawyers defending Osama bin Laden's former driver on terrorism charges in the U.S. war court at Guantanamo Bay have offered a compromise in their quest to interview the September 11 mastermind. REUTERS/Courtesy U.S.News &amp; World Report/Handout</p>