A special military tribunal has formally charged the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, and his four co-defendants with crimes, including murder and terrorism.
The prosecutors read the charges against the five during an arraignment hearing Saturday at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, where they have been held for years amid a legal and political battle over how and where to prosecute them.
The charges include conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property, hijacking an aircraft, and terrorism. If found guilty, the five face the death penalty for their role in the attacks that killed 2,976 people in New York, Washington and a field in Pennsylvania.
It was the first appearance of Mohamed and the four others in years. The suspects opted to defer their pleas and were defiant, refusing to answer the military judge’s questions and delaying the procedures.
Defendant Walid bin Attash had to be held in a restraint chair in the courtroom, before being freed after agreeing to behave. And Ramzi Binalshibh interrupted the session with an outburst asserting he might be killed.
One of the men started undressing, while least one other defendant got up and prayed on the courtroom floor.
The arraignment is the first step before the beginning of the trial and marks the second time the U.S. has tried to prosecute the September 11 suspects. The legal maneuverings are expected to last for years. The military’s chief prosecutor, Brigadier General Mark Martins, promised a fair trial.
Several family members of the victims of the terrorist attacks were selected by lottery to travel to Cuba to witness Saturday’s hearing. Other relatives gathered at military bases inside the United States to watch the proceedings live on closed-circuit television.
AP feed: court sketches from arraignment of alleged 9/11 mastermind
Reuters feed: Cuba-Guantanamo sketches rough cut