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But the hearing before the military commission charged with trying the 5 major 9/11 plotters for crimes ranging from nearly 3,000 counts of murder to terrorism quickly bogged down and became a circus. A legal proceeding that was expected to last about 2 hours became a 13 hour marathon when defense attorneys used a variety of delaying tactics that bordered on the surreal at times, while the defendants ignored the presiding judge, Col. James Pohl, and refused to enter pleas as a protest against what they believe is an “unfair” system. Their pleas were deferred until a later date.
The arraignment, broadcast on closed circuit TV to 4 other military bases, was witnessed by members of the press, military officials, human rights advocates, and six family members who lost loved ones on 9/11. Some family members who spoke to the press after the arraignment were outraged at the cavalier attitude toward the hearing by the terrorists. The untried system of military commissions will no doubt slow the legal process down even more, as defense attorneys explore the limits of their client’s rights. President Obama and Congress amended the system in 2009 and gave the defendants more legal rights while denying some evidence from being presented that was obtained from the prisoners via “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Human rights groups still say the proceedings are unfair and wish the trials to take place in civilian court.
The five accused included the boastful mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Ramzi Binalshibh, who allegedly scouted flights schools; Waleed bin Attash, who allegedly ran a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and researched flight simulators; Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, who allegedly supplied Western clothing and credit cards, as well as acting as a conduit for money to the hijackers; and Mohammed’s nephew, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, who also helped with financing the operation. The crimes committed by the 5 are outlined in an 87-page indictment that includes charges such as “conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft, and terrorism.”
It became clear that one of the tactics of defense lawyers — both civilian and military — was to put the entire concept of military commissions on trial. In pursuit of this goal, they have filed hundreds of motions challenging every conceivable aspect of the proceedings, leading Col. Pohl to put back the start of the trial until May, 2013.
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