UK & World News
Alleged 9/11 Plotters Keep Mute In Cuba Court
Four of the five men accused of the 9/11 terror charges have refused to utter a single word throughout their first court appearance at a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay.
The only defendant at the hearing to speak was Yemeni prisoner Ramzi bin al Shibh, who yelled in a mix of Arabic and broken English at the judge: "Maybe they will kill me and say I committed suicide."
All five accused refused to answer questions from US military judge Colonel James Pohl as he explained their rights and gave them the chance to appoint their own defence lawyers.
One defendant sat leafing through a book, another praying as the judge asked them question after question, and repeatedly noted for the record "defendant refused to answer".
They are charged with terror offences arising from the September 11 attacks in 2001 that killed almost 3,000 people.
Most prominent among them the self-proclaimed mastermind of the atrocities, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
He sat in white robes and white headdress with a long, dyed beard and showed little emotion as the proceedings went on around him.
His lawyer and one for another defendant said their clients will remain silent until their complaints about the nature of their confinement are dealt with first in court.
Co-defendant Walid bin Attash was restrained to a chair after refusing to enter the court voluntarily, but was later unshackled after he pledged to behave inside the courtroom.
The proceedings at a US facility in Cuba cannot be broadcast but reporters are monitoring them by CCTV pictures. At one point the hearing was censored for a minute.
One defence counsel said he suspected the censorship was imposed to protect the US government from embarrassment. Another said he believed it was to prevent discussion of the defendants being tortured.
The defendants' silence allowed for little drama. One of the accused had been brought in to the court held down with restraints, but was later unshackled.
The military tribunal was convened in Guantanamo after the Obama administration failed to have the trial held under civilian law on the US mainland in the face of fierce political and public opposition.
Prosecutors say the tribunals have been reformed and are now as fair as federal civilian courts, but others are not convinced.
Former Guantanamo prosecutors and human rights activists have lined up to condemn the proceedings as unable to give the accused a fair hearing.
There is also concern that the accused were subject to coercive interrogation by the CIA and that irredeemably taints the evidence in the case.
Prosecutors say no such evidence will play a part in this trial.