9/11 Suspects Boycott Hearing at Guantánamo

" .... A court security officer three times hit a censor's button to prevent victims and media from hearing portions of the presentation by Lachelier, bin al Shibh's Pentagon-appointed defense counsel. The $12 million courtroom was designed for such episodes. Media and other observers are sequestered in a soundproof booth and hear the participants' words on a 40-second delay, giving the government censor time to broadcast static when he believes someone might be divulging classified information. The same censor has hit the button in earlier hearings, specifically when Mohammed made reference to his torture, presumably by waterboarding, and when bin al Shibh discussed his U.S. military diagnosed mental illness. ... "

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking-news/story/1144151.html

By CAROL ROSENBERG
crosenberg@MiamiHerald.com
07.16.09

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- All five alleged co-conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks boycotted a pretrial hearing Thursday morning, frustrating prosecutors and denying kin of victims a chance to see the men in the flesh.

Prosecutor Robert Swann, a retired Army colonel, argued that no hearing should go forward without the presence of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four alleged co-conspirators. Three of the men are acting as their own attorneys.

The hearing was meant to hash out what information would be made available to military defense lawyers for two of the accused -- Ramzi bin al Shibh and Mustafa al Hawsawi -- as part of an ongoing sanity board to determine their competency to stand trial.

Both men have asked to serve as their own attorneys. Navy Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier, assigned to defend bin al Shibh, says the Yemeni, who has been accused of helping the 9/11 hijackers find flight schools in America, has been prescribed psychotropic medications given to patients who are schizophrenic or bipolar.

It was not known why Hawsawi may not be competent. His attorney, Army Maj. Jon Jackson, has filed sealed motions in his client's case.

Defense lawyers said the accused men were notified on the eve of the hearing that they would be prohibited from speaking in court.

Nine relatives of Americans killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon watched the proceedings from a special victims' section inside a glass-enclosed and soundproofed booth at the back of the court.

One observer, Judy Reiss of Bucks County, Pa., had a photo of her 23-year-old son pinned to her blouse for the hearing. Joshua Reiss, a bond trader at Cantor-Fitzgerald in New York City, perished in the attack while working on the 105th floor of the Trade Center's North Tower.

With none of the accused present, Judge Stephen Henley heard arguments on whether to fund experts to test bin al Shibh's mental competency.

"Whether or not it is reflective of his delusional disorder," said Lachelier, "the government can't hide the fact that they used sleep deprivation."

A court security officer three times hit a censor's button to prevent victims and media from hearing portions of the presentation by Lachelier, bin al Shibh's Pentagon-appointed defense counsel.

The $12 million courtroom was designed for such episodes. Media and other observers are sequestered in a soundproof booth and hear the participants' words on a 40-second delay, giving the government censor time to broadcast static when he believes someone might be divulging classified information.

The same censor has hit the button in earlier hearings, specifically when Mohammed made reference to his torture, presumably by waterboarding, and when bin al Shibh discussed his U.S. military diagnosed mental illness.

Thursday, Judge Henley, an Army colonel, told Lachelier she was forbidden to speak in open court about the Yemeni's treatment in CIA custody, before President George W. Bush ordered him and the other accused moved from secret sites to Guantánamo for trial.

Lachelier has sought to hire experts in sleep and psychiatric neuroimaging as part of an analysis of whether bin al Shibh's psychological disorder interferes with either his ability to function as his own attorney or makes him incompetent for trial.

Military escorts said another observer on the base this week was Janet Roy of Pompano Beach, whose firefighter brother William F. Burke Jr., 46, died at the World Trade Center.

The terror suspects could face military execution if they are convicted of conspiracy in the mass murder of 2,973 people on Sept. 11. They allegely plotted, financed and helped the 19 hijackers reach U.S. soil -- and they have collectively submitted a written admission to the court that says they welcome martyrdom.

The Pentagon has cast the hearing as an incremental administrative move while the Obama administration examines each of the proposed Guantánamo war crimes cases. A Justice Department-led task force is still deciding which cases should go before military tribunals and which to civilian juries.

Meantime, the prisoners are segregated as high-value detainees from the rest of the 220 or so war on terror captives at Guantánamo, confined to a secret prison called Camp 7 so they cannot describe the details of their CIA interrogations to fellow detainees.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking-news/story/1144151.html