WASHINGTON – About 250 relatives of men and women killed on Sept. 11, 2011, vied for six courtroom seats. About the same number of journalists sought to work at Guantanamo this weekend. Senior human rights lawyers swept aside staff attorneys and interns for a three-night stay in a six-bunk tent.
Competition has been fierce to secure a weekend spot at Camp Justice, Guantanamo’s crude war-court compound in southeast Cuba, where Pentagon prosecutors will once again charge confessed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants with orchestrating the attacks on 9/11.
“It’s the Nuremberg of our times,” said Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, accounting for the crush of press applications to report from Guantanamo on Saturday, when the one-day arraignment hearing restarts the clock on the trial by military commissions.
Reporters emailed from as far away as Australia and Pakistan, willing to travel at short notice to join the press flight from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C., to the U.S.-controlled corner of Cuba.
Although nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks, only about 250 of their survivors submitted their names for a Defense Department lottery for seats set aside for “victim family members” – spouses, siblings, grandparents, parents or children of those killed.
Those chosen include two women whose husbands were killed on 9/11, a man whose wife was killed, and two women who lost two brothers inside the World Trade Center that day, said Karen Loftus, the Pentagon’s coordinator for Sept. 11 victims.
Interest in watching the proceedings has been building, said Loftus, who expects the lottery pool to expand for any actual trial. Saturday’s hearing follows years of legal controversy surrounding the court, which was initially closed by the Supreme Court during the George W. Bush administration, and then twice re-formed.
“People need to see that it’s really going to happen,” Loftus said Wednesday. “The Supreme Court has weighed in, Congress has weighed in, both presidents have weighed in. And this is happening.”