Guantanamo defendants’ papers were taken: official


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 - Page 3

A pretrial hearing in the Sept. 11 war crimes case started on Thursday with an angry outburst from one of the defendants complaining about searches of his cell and the confiscation of his personal papers at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Walid bin Attash stood up to address the court about the searches. The military judge, US Army Colonel James Pohl, cut him off and told him to sit down.

Pohl, who has allowed the defendants to speak in court in previous court appearances, halted bin Attash with a stern warning to defense attorney Cheryl Bormann.

Bormann told the judge that her client was upset because guards had searched his cell while he was in court and took personal papers that he keeps in a bin for legal mail.

A prison official later testified that documents and books were taken from four of the defendants over the past week during security inspections, though some of the material was later deemed permissible and would be returned.

Bin Attash, a native of Yemen who grew up in Saudi Arabia and is accused of providing logistical assistance to the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, sat down as members of his defense team appeared to calm him down.

The outburst came on the last of four days of pretrial motions hearings. The five defendants are being tried by a tribunal for wartime offenses known as a military commission.

They face charges that include murder and terrorism for their alleged roles planning and aiding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and could get the death penalty if convicted.

The May 2012 arraignment in the long-stalled war crimes case was an unruly 13-hour spectacle, drawn out as the defendants refused to use the court translation system, ignored the judge and stood up to pray in court.

The past week’s hearings largely dealt with fears by members of the five defense teams that the US government has been eavesdropping on their private conversations.

Officials confirmed that meeting rooms used by the attorneys have microphones apparently disguised to look like smoke detectors.

They said that the devices have no recording capability and have not been used to monitor private meetings that prisoners have with their lawyers or the Red Cross.

Bormann and self-professed terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s attorney David Nevin said the defense is continuing to investigate whether there has been any eavesdropping, which they said undermines their ability to represent their clients and under some circumstances could be illegal.