Khalid Sheikh Mohammed appears in Guantánamo Bay. (AP Photo)
UPDATED 9:29 AM PT – Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Nine years after their arraignment, the trial of the five men charged with facilitating the attacks on September 11, 2001 resumes. On Tuesday, the defendants in the United States v. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, et al appeared before Judge Col. Matthew McCall at the Guantanamo Bay military base for a pre-trial hearing.
McCall will determine whether or not the confessions of the five men can be used against them or whether the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” renders the statements inadmissible.
“One of the most important issues in the case is how the torture of these men is going to ultimately affect the trial,” stated James Connell, attorney for Ammar al Baluchi. “And trials mean evidence and the destruction of evidence. The intentional destruction of evidence takes away from the defense and really the American people information about what actually happened.”
A large portion of Tuesday’s hearing was ironing out issues regarding Guantanamo’s COVID restrictions, including the implementation of a remote hearing and ensuring the court schedule didn’t interfere with either the defendant’s meal or prayer times. Then, the voir dire or preliminary examination of colonel McCall began.
“There are a lot of issues that drive why this case takes so long and today is a perfect example,” Connell continued. “Today, while we were dealing with either the fourth or the ninth judge in the case, depending on how you count.”
Initially there were concerns about Col. McCall’s lack of experience as a military judge, but ultimately he was found to meet the requirements.
The five men have been charged with a number of offenses, including conspiracy, attacking civilians, murder in violation of the law of war, hijacking and terrorism. The legal teams of each of the five have until Thursday to file their defense theories.