Arraignment of five accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people will begin at Guantanamo Bay Military Tribunal on Saturday.
Two planeloads of people, including victims' relatives, have arrived at the military complex on Friday to participate in or watch court proceedings.
Self-proclaimed 9/11 "mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is accused of obtaining approval and funding from the late al-Qaida chieftain Osama bin Laden for the attacks, overseeing the entire operation and training the hijackers in all aspects of the operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Charges were referred April 4 in the case of the United States vs. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi. Saturday's arraignment is the next step in the military commission's process.
Overall charges allege that the five accused are responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which saw hijacked planes strike New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., resulting in the deaths of 2,976 people.
The defendants will hear the charges against them and have the opportunity to enter a plea. The judge may then entertain motions from the defense or prosecution. The five detainees are charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and destruction of property in violation of the law of war.
The Office of Military Commissions sent 91 people, including prosecution and defense teams, to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. About a dozen family members of 9/11 victims also traveled there with military escorts. Representatives of human rights groups and other organizations sent a total of 11 people, besides nearly 60 media representatives, the US Defense Department said in a pres release.
Motions filed this week include a defense notice of intent to disclose classified information, and a motion and supplemental motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union for public access to proceedings and records.
A trial date has not been set, and defense officials have said a trial is not likely to begin for at least several months.
If convicted following trial, the defendants could be sentenced to death. In accordance with the US Military Commissions Act, each of the accused has been provided learned counsel with specialized knowledge and experience in death penalty cases. As the act also stipulates, military commissions cannot admit into evidence statements obtained through cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The accused are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, officials emphasized.
by RTT Staff Writer
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