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Defense of Suspected 9/11 Mastermind: Attacks are not Terrorism by Definition | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before his 2003 capture in Pakistan Credit: Red Cross

Washington – Evening court session of 9/11 trial witnessed several surprises and controversy after defense lawyer Cheryl Bormann asked to be relieved of her defense duties, citing her sense of a looming conflict of interest.

After two and a half hours of debate during the morning session, four attorneys of the defense team also asked to be relieved.

Bin Attash said he doesn’t trust his defense team, and in return Army Col. Judge James Pohl rejected Bormann’s request and insisted on continuing with the proceeding.

Defense team of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shiba argued about the definition of terrorism, and pointed out that the World Trade Centers’ attack doesn’t fall under the classification of terrorism back then.

Defense lawyers for two of the accused terrorists argued that the United States was not at war at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, and that therefore the case was not subject to the warf court Congress created to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators. They asked Pohl to dismiss the case.

Defendants Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shiba, Ammar al-Bloushi, and Mustapha al-Howsi all stood before a military committee in a court in Guantánamo Bay Navy Base.

Mohammed is considered the mastermind of the attacks and supervised the plans and training in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bin Attash managed a training camp in Afghanistan affiliated with al-Qaeda where two of the kidnappers were trained. Yemeni Shiba helped the kidnappers to enter flight schools and secured their entrance to the US.

The military committee presiding the court preparations accused the five suspects of conspiracy to execute September 11 attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. They are also accused of attacking civilians and homicides which led to the death of 2976 as well as terrorism and hijacking planes.

Guards brought two of the five defendants, Sheikh Mohammed and Bin Attash, to court about 30 minutes before the hearing. Both spread out prayer rugs inside the court while guards and attorneys were getting ready and prayed behind their defense tables.

Separately, Bin Attash spoke in Arabic and asked Pohl through translator to release a sealed letter he sent the judge in January 2015 and asked for the return of retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Hatcher, who was his lawyer for a time and most recently a case analyst. Hatcher was removed from the team in November.

In a room annexed to the court, a man attired in a New York City Fire Department uniform sat in the court spectators’ section, and six members of the Sept. 11 families watching the session.