GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – The defense team for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, charged with capital murder in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, on Sunday angrily called the military commission legal process a political “regime” set up to put him and the four other defendants to death.
David Nevin, Mohammed’s civilian attorney, said new rules imposed under the Obama administration bar them from discussing with their clients whether they were mistreated by U.S. authorities – in the case of Mohammed, “tortured” – after their arrests eight years ago.
“We are operating under a regime here,” Nevin said. “We are forbidden from talking to our clients about very important matters.
“And now the government wants to kill Mr. Mohammed. They want to extinguish the last eyewitness so he can never talk about his torture. They want the political cover so he’ll be convicted and executed.”
According to CIA accounts and other documents, Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, was subjected 183 times to waterboarding at a CIA site before he was moved to Guantanamo Bay.
On Saturday he and four alleged Sept. 11 comrades were arraigned on conspiracy, terrorism and murder charges. They deferred entering pleas of guilt or innocence in the case.
Army Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor, said Sunday that the public should remember Sept. 11 and what happened that morning when nearly 3,000 people died at New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania.
“The enemy force,” he said, “was sophisticated, patient, disciplined and lethal.”
Martins said the military tribunal process was fair to both sides.
“However long the journey, and the arraignment was only the start of a legal process that could take many months,” he said, “the United States is committed to gaining accountability for those who attacked and killed innocent people.”
He said defense lawyers can talk to their clients, but cannot show them classified documents that disclose harsh treatment. Otherwise, he said, “they can talk to their clients about anything.”