September 9, 2012
The U.S. is for a second time attempting to prosecute five prisoners held at the Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for planning and aiding the Sept. 11 attacks, charging them with war crimes in a special tribunal for wartime offenses known as a military commission. Here’s an update.
Q: WHO WILL BE ON TRIAL? WHAT ARE THE CHARGES?
A: The main defendant is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a self-described terrorist mastermind who came up with the idea of using commercial aircraft to attack the U.S. and set the plan in motion. Mohammed, a Pakistani citizen who grew up in Kuwait and attended college in Greensboro, N.C., has told the U.S. military he was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks from “A to Z,” as well as about 30 other plots, and said he personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.[...]
Q: WHAT HAS HAPPENED SO FAR?
A: The five were arraigned in May at the U.S. base in Cuba in a sometimes-unruly 13-hour hearing in which the men appeared to make a concerted effort to delay the proceeding by refusing to respond to questions from the military judge or use the court’s translation system to follow the proceedings in Arabic. They didn’t enter a plea, though Mohammed in the past has indicated he wanted to plead guilty.[...]
Q: WHY IS IT TAKING SO LONG TO TRY THEM?
A: The men, all of whom were held in secret CIA “black sites” before being taken to Guantanamo in September 2006, were arraigned the first time in June 2008, a process that was delayed by legal challenges to the military commissions. After that first arraignment, the case bogged down in pretrial hearings until the election of President Barack Obama, who put the case on hold while he tried to move the case to a civilian court in the U.S. as part of a broader plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.[...]