The defence team for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM), who says he masterminded the worst attacks on US soil “from A to Z”, claimed on Sunday that the US government wanted to kill his client.
“And now the government wants to kill Mohammad. They want to extinguish the last eyewitness so he can never talk about his torture. They want the political cover so he’ll be convicted and executed,” KSM’s lawyer David Nevin said on Sunday.
Confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and the four other accused opted to defer their pleas at Saturday’s proceedings in a military tribunal at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – which lasted more than 13 hours.
Addressing a press conference a day after the chaotic marathon arraignment hearing, Nevin said that the Obama administration had wanted the 9/11 case to be tried in federal court, but could not do so due to political reasons.
“Four years later, we’re back here for political reasons.”
Nevin said new rules imposed under the Obama administration bar them from discussing with their clients whether they were mistreated by US authorities — and in the case of Mohammad, ‘tortured’ – after their arrests eight years ago.
“We are operating under a regime here,” Nevin said, adding that they were forbidden from talking to our clients about very important matters.
The five face the death penalty if convicted for their roles in the terror attacks by al Qaeda militants in which hijacked planes were used to strike New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 2,976 people.
The defendants were charged with “conspiracy, attacking civilians, murder and violation of the law of war, destruction, hijacking and terrorism” in connection with the attacks, the most lethal on US soil in modern history.
Accused Walid bin Attash lawyer Cheryl Bormann explained her abaya, saying her client is offended by women who do not dress in conservative Islamic attire, feeling that it causes him to sin. “It is distracting to him to see a woman who has anything bare other than her face,” she said.
She added that she has met with her client a dozen times, and always dresses respectfully. “He is that conservative,” she said. Bormann, who mentioned in court that her client’s arms had scars which she believed were inflicted by the Guantanamo guards, said she had reason to believe that he has been mistreated in the camp.
James Connell, attorney for KSM’s nephew Ali Abd al Aziz Ali, also known as Ammar al Baluchi, also spoke at the press conference held on Sunday.
“The accused participated in peaceful resistance to an unjust system. The accused refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the military commissions as demonstrated through their silence. These men have endured years of inhumane treatment and torture. This treatment has had serious long term effects and will ultimately infect every aspect of this military commission tribunal,” said Connell.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2012.