September 11 suspects hold up Guantanamo hearing

Thu Jul 16, 2009 5:08pm EDT
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By Jim Loney

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - The five men accused of the September 11 attacks on the United States disrupted and delayed the Guantanamo war court on Thursday when they refused to leave their cells for a hearing at the remote U.S. military base in Cuba where they are held.

The boycott bogged down proceedings at the controversial court at Guantanamo Bay, where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi are accused of murder and conspiracy in the 2001 attacks using hijacked passenger airliners.

Prosecutions at the first U.S. war crimes tribunals since World War Two were halted by President Barack Obama soon after his inauguration in January but the military judges continue to hold hearings on legal motions in case the trials are revived.

Thursday's hearing dealt with the mental competency of Binalshibh and al-Hawsawi.

The boycott stalled proceedings for more than two hours before bin Attash, al-Hawsawi and Aziz Ali finally were brought to the high-security courtroom from the secret camp where they are imprisoned. But al-Hawsawi soon demanded to leave after complaining he would not be allowed to speak.

Then bin Attash, given five minutes to address the court, complained that the presiding judge, Army Colonel Steven Henley, had not responded to letters the five men had written to him "a long time ago."

"If you don't have enough patience to take this case, just give it to a different judge," bin Attash said. "We view the judge and prosecution as one person. There's no difference."

Mohammed and Aziz Ali, both Pakistanis, al-Hawsawi, a Saudi, and Binalshibh and bin Attash, both Yemenis, could face the death penalty if convicted of murder, conspiracy, terrorism and other charges.   Continued...

<p>In this photo of a sketch by a courtroom artist, and reviewed by the U.S. military, family members of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, (R) observe courtroom proceedings during hearings for the five alleged September 11 co-conspirators, inside the courthouse at the Camp Justice compound for the U.S. war crimes commission, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, July 16, 2009. REUTERS/Janet Hamlin/Pool</p>