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Proceedings stalled after accused refuse to attend hearing



Latest update : 2009-07-16

Court proceedings at the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been stalled after five men accused of involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks refused to leave their cells for a hearing on Thursday.

REUTERS - The Guantanamo war court stalled again on Thursday when the five men accused of the Sept 11. attacks refused to leave their cells for a hearing at the remote U.S. base in Cuba where they are being held.


Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi are accused of conspiring to kill civilians in the 2001 hijacked airliner attacks on the United States, which triggered the Bush administration's global war on terrorism.


The boycott delayed the court for more than two hours. Three of the five, bin Attash, Aziz Ali and al-Hawsawi, were later brought to the high-security Guantanamo courthouse, where lawyers had already begun arguments without them.


The presiding judge, Army Colonel Steve Henley, said Mohammed and Binalshibh had declined to attend.


Mohammed and Aziz Ali, both Pakistanis, al-Hawsawi, a Saudi, and Binalshibh and bin Attash, both Yemenis, could face the death penalty if convicted of murder, conspiracy, terrorism and other charges.


Thursday's hearing dealt with legal motions surrounding the mental competency of Binalshibh and al-Hawsawi.


Binalshibh's lawyer, Navy Commander Suzanne Lachelier, asked the court to allow a defense consultant to examine CT scans of her client's brain and perform further tests, including possibly an MRI, to "determine whether any lesions in his brain affect his cognitive functioning."


Lachelier said Binalshibh has been diagnosed with "delusional disorder."


According to defense court filings, he was diagnosed with a mental disease that resulted in doctors prescribing psychotropic drugs used to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.


Court censorship


A court censor cut off Lachelier when she began talking about Binalshibh's complaints that he had been subjected to sleep deprivation, which critics have derided as an abusive technique used to soften prisoners for interrogation.


"The government can't hide the fact that they used sleep deprivation ..., " Lachelier said before the audio feed to observers and reporters outside the courtroom was cut off.


The audio is on a 40-second delay which allows a court security officer to hit a censor button to block material believed to be classified.


Prosecutor Clayton Trivett later said Binalshibh's complaints of sleep deprivation could be explained by the diagnosis that he suffers from delusions.


Binalshibh has accused guards of pumping foul smells and loud noises into his cell and "vibrating his bed" to keep him awake, Trivett said.


"The government's position is that it's not happening and it's never been happening," he said.


The Pentagon flew nearly 180 people -- judges, lawyers, interpreters, court reporters, observers and journalists -- from Washington to Guantanamo for two days of hearings in the controversial war court, created by former President George W. Bush to try suspects in his war on terrorism.


President Barack Obama has suspended prosecutions pending his administration's review of the first U.S. war crimes tribunals since World War Two.


Relatives of some of the victims of the Sept 11. attacks on New York and Washington sat in a viewing area in the high-security Guantanamo courtroom. Judith Reiss of Yardley, Pennsylvania, had pinned to her blouse a picture of her son, Joshua, a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald who was killed in the World Trade Center.


Date created : 2009-07-16