The second day of the pretrial hearings for the court martial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the attacks, and four other defendants began at the military prison on Tuesday.
The other defendants are Ramzi Binalshibh, the alleged “manager of the cell” that carried out the attacks; Walid bin Attash, an alleged al-Qaeda training camp steward; and Mustafa Ahmed Hawsawi and Ammar al Baluchi, aka Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, alleged al-Qaeda financiers.
Judge James L. Pohl, an Army colonel, heard arguments while complying with the government-imposed ‘protective order’ on regulating the use and handling of ‘classified evidence’ during the proceedings.
The Chief Prosecutor in the Office of Military Commissions, Brig. Gen. Mark Martins also insisted that the restrictions imposed on defense attorneys by protective orders are essential to prevent the exposure of ‘classified secrets’ and protect national security.
Furthermore, the protective order also includes rules to partially censor or even close an entire trial session on the basis of safeguarding US national security secrets, which seems to violate constitutional protections for the right to open court trials, according to a report by The Associated Press, quoting a lawyer for a coalition of media organizations, David Schulz.
“The public right has a constitutional right to know what is being done in its name in this tribunal,” Schulz said.
All five defendants have described the military tribunal as unjust and illegitimate.
The government-appointed defense lawyers for the accused, also established military officers, complained that the rule would make it difficult for them to present defense evidence, including the inmates’ description of the conditions under which they were held captive for years in the CIA-run prison where they were subjected to, what the US government describes as, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which include forced nudity, sleep deprivation, simulated drowning, better known as water boarding, and being tied up in “stress positions.”
Only two of the defendants attended the Tuesday pretrial hearing while the other three, including Mohammed, boycotted the session after the judge ruled on Monday that they were free not to attend the pretrial sessions.
This is while the military prosecutors had argued earlier that the rules for the special wartime tribunals, known as military commissions, would oblige defendants to participate in all court sessions, insisting that their presence would “ensure the proceedings are legitimate.”
The weeklong pretrial hearings reportedly serve as the only presumed legal trial emerging from the highly-controversial 9/11 terrorist attacks with mounting, unanswered questions about the role of US government elements in the attacks. The defendants are named in 87 charges that include conspiracy, murder, aircraft hijacking, and terrorism. A trial has been tentatively scheduled for May 2013.