Keep Guantanamo open, September 11 families say

Thu Jul 16, 2009 8:59pm EDT
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By Jim Loney

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - Nine relatives of September 11 victims witnessed the controversial Guantanamo war court in action on Thursday and called on U.S. President Barack Obama to keep the remote detention camp and war crimes trials open.

The family members, brought to the U.S. military base in Cuba by the Pentagon, saw three of the five men accused of plotting the 2001 hijacked airliner attacks face the court set up by former President George W. Bush to try suspects in his war on terrorism.

But they did not see the alleged mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who boycotted the session.

The relatives toured the U.S. Navy base but were not allowed into the detention camps. They met with guards and praised their work, as well as the operation of the first U.S. war crimes tribunals since World War II.

Critics call the Guantanamo detention camps a stain on America's human rights reputation and the tribunals a miscarriage of justice.

"I have nothing to gain other than to tell you people, we need this camp. We absolutely need this camp," said Gary Reiss of Yardley, Pennsylvania, whose son Joshua, a 23-year-old bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald, died in the World Trade Center.

"Please keep Guantanamo Bay open and the commission hearings continuing," added his wife, Judith. "You must pursue justice for the 3,000 victims of 9-11 and I ask this in my son Joshua's memory."

Pentagon officials said the nine were chosen randomly by a computer from a list of relatives who wanted to attend.   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>