Cảnh lộn xộn tại phiên tòa sơ bộ (xem xét bằng chứng) vụ 9/11 tại Guantánamo
By CHARLIE SAVAGE and MATT FLEGENHEIMER
Published: May 5, 2012
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The rocky beginning comes as the United States chases dual goals at the restart of the tribunal: to prosecute, and ultimately execute, the five detainees; and to show the world that the tribunal system is legitimate.
At the start of the proceedings on Saturday, the lead defendant, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, removed the headphones intended to provide Arabic translations of the judge’s questions. The four other defendants did the same, forcing the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, to recess briefly. The hearing resumed after an interpreter began providing a translation that could be heard by the whole court.
It was a day filled with other interruptions. A co-defendant, Walid bin Attash, was strapped to a chair after refusing to come to court voluntarily. He was freed from the chair after pledging to behave in the courtroom.
At one point, another detainee, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, rose suddenly, then knelt on the floor of the courtroom to pray. A team of guards in camouflage uniforms watched closely, but did not intervene.
As the United States restarts its effort to prosecute five detainees accused of conspiring in the Sept. 11 attacks, it has fallen to Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins both to prove them guilty and to show the world that the tribunal system is now legitimate.
General Martins has assigned himself to lead the latest attempt to prosecute Mr. Mohammed — the architect of the terrorist attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people — and the other detainees who were arraigned Saturday on war crimes charges at the naval base at Guantánamo Bay.
The hearing is the latest chapter in a winding legal and political saga surrounding the five defendants. In 2009, the Obama administration said it would prosecute Mr. Mohammed in a Manhattan federal courtroom, just blocks from the site that the group said it had destroyed. But amid mounting political pressure, from both Republicans and some Democrats, the administration backpedaled, moving the trial out of New York, and later approved the filing of war crimes charges by military prosecutors at Guantánamo Bay.
About 40 survivors and family members of Sept. 11 victims watched the court proceedings on Saturday from two viewing rooms at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. Some of them said they had to hold their emotions in check as they watched the defendants stonewall the arraignment proceedings.
Debra Burlingame, 58, of Ulster County, a sister of Charles Burlingame, the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, said she and other relatives were disgusted by the arrogance shown by Mr. Mohammed and the other defendants.
“They are engaging in jihad in the courtroom,” said Ms. Burlingame, who wore a button with a picture of her brother sitting in the pilot seat of a cockpit.
Robert Reeg, 59, who survived the collapse of the towers as a firefighter with Engine Company 44 on the Upper East Side, said of the proceedings, “This is a theater for the defendants.”
Marc Nell, a New York police detective whose unit lost 14 members on Sept. 11, said the defendants’ actions on Saturday did not faze him and other first responders because the proceedings had been such a long time coming. “It was good seeing those guys brought to justice,” he said.
Despite the theatrics (), the victims and first responders said they would continue to observe the proceedings () diligently.
“We’re in this for the long term (),” Ms. Burlingame said.
As he restarts the case, General Martins is also trying to emphasizing changes that Congress made the tribunal system in 2009, including a higher standard for “hearsay” evidence and a prohibition against using statements made during cruel or degrading treatment. Obama administration officials echo () those arguments, saying that the current tribunals are fair, unlike those during the Bush administration.
Military lawyers for the Sept. 11 defendants say that the improvements are exaggerated and that they intend to test the claims of fairness (). They are starting by asking the judge, Colonel Pohl, to send the capital charges () back to the Pentagon for reconsideration because of problems that, they say, have crippled their ability to provide a meaningful defense. The effort could further delay the case — the arraignment is just the first step, and no trial date has been set — or create grounds for appeal.
Charlie Savage reported from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and Matt Flegenheimer from New York. Ivan Pereira contributed reporting from New York.