Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others accused in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks returned to a military courtroom as their lawyers seek permission to collect evidence that some were tortured.
Among the legal issues to be raised before a military judge at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is whether the defense will gain access to documents indicating that defendants were tortured while in U.S. custody. In October, during the first round of pretrial hearings, Mohammed used the proceedings to accuse the U.S. government of killing millions of people and employing torture "under the name of national security."
James Connell, an attorney for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, a defendant who is a nephew of Mohammed accused of helping finance the hijackers, said at a press conference in Cuba Sunday the men may be able to exclude some government evidence at trial if they can show it was derived from torture. The men, who face a possible death sentence if found guilty, may also use evidence of torture to seek reduced sentences. This week's proceedings are "the first step toward finding what happened in the torture of these men," Connell said.
Mohammed was silent Monday morning as his lead attorney, David Nevin, requested permission for another lawyer, Gary Sowards, to join his defense team. That led the judge to ask whether he could appoint an additional lawyer without Mohammed's express consent.
"How hard is it for him to say, 'I want him on the case'?" Army Colonel James Pohl said.
Nevin conferred with Mohammed, who sat quietly and occasionally stroked his lengthy, dyed-red beard as lawyers argued.
"He says tell the judge, 'You represent me, this is your decision, and to accept Mr. Sowards,'" Nevin said.
The judge did.
Mohammed, Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash, Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi and Ramzi bin al Shibh are accused of plotting the attacks that used hijacked passenger airplanes to kill almost 3,000 people at the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the Pentagon in Virginia, and in Pennsylvania.
Mohammed was captured in a 2003 raid in Pakistan. He and the others are charged with conspiring to finance, train and direct the 19 hijackers who seized the planes, terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the laws of war and attacking civilians.