The US government will try again Monday to move forward in its case against the accused mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four co-defendants, as pretrial motions begin at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba.
Mohammed is the alleged coordinator behind the airline hijack attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States. Four co-defendants, suspected al Qaida operatives, are charged with providing funds and other resources for the hijackers.
The defendants have been charged with conspiring with al Qaeda, attacking civilians and civilian targets, murder in violation of the laws of war, destruction of property, hijacking and terrorism.
Gordon Haberman, whose daughter was killed in the World Trade Center, is among the victims’ relatives who have been invited to Cuba for the hearings.
“I intend to follow this through as long as we have to,” Haberman told the New York Daily News. “We’re committed and it’s important that we’re down there.”
At issue this week are 25 motions from both prosecution and defense teams, many of them involving questions about secrecy, including how much access US news media should have and whether treatment of the defendants before they arrived at Guantanamo should be considered classified.
Earlier hearings have been delayed for everything from religious observances and a tropical storm to rat droppings and at least one rodent carcass found in the work space assigned to the defense team . Last month, the judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, denied a defense request for another delay when attorneys said the space was infested with mold and rat feces.
Guantanamo’s Industrial Hygiene Department has certified the work space is safe, but lawyers have refused to return and are working instead from an off-site trailer.
Army Brigadier General Mark Martins, chief prosecutor in the case, told reporters on Sunday that "justice is not determined by the plushness of the surroundings."
The case has at times taken on a circus-like atmosphere with outbursts from the defendants and tales of large rat carcasses. There have been no hearings since May because of the hygiene and safety concerns, Tropical Storm Issac, and an Internet outage.
When the case does make its way to trial, Mohammed and the other four defendants all face the death penalty if convicted.