The man who once bragged he was “responsible for the 9/11 operations from A to Z” sat quietly in a military courtroom today at the U.S. naval station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed almost 3,000 people, appeared in public for the first time since his arraignment in May, when he declined to enter a plea.
The alleged terrorist plotter bore little resemblance to the disheveled figure in stubble and a black mustache in the now-famous photo that was released after his capture in Pakistan nine years ago.
He sported a white turban and a long, thick beard that was dyed a reddish hue. He wore glasses at least part of the time as he sat reading what appeared to be a newspaper and court documents.
At hearings that are scheduled to run all week, lawyers for Mohammed and four other alleged co-conspirators will seek rulings on a barrage of motions aimed at limiting the government’s ability to keep information about interrogation techniques and detention conditions secret.
The military judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, said he intends to rule today on a motion that would determine whether the accused have a right to voluntarily skip the hearings.
The government is seeking to require the defendants to attend all proceedings, with few exceptions.
“There’s an important aspect of the dignity and decorum of the court,” said Army Brigadier General Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor. “Apathy or disdain for the proceedings does not qualify as good cause” for being absent, he said.
James Connell, an attorney for defendant Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, a nephew of Mohammed, countered, “The right to presence belongs to the defendants, not the government.”
Defense lawyers have declined in recent days to say whether their clients would like to skip hearings, citing the government’s proposed protective order that they say would bar them from dislosing their communications.
In court today, James Herrington, an attorney for defendant Ramzi bin al Shibh, suggested his client may not want to attend some court sessions.
“Our client may believe, `I don’t want to go to court. I don’t want anything to do with the court. I don’t want to recognize these proceedings,’ ” Herrington said.
A ruling today may determine whether the world will see much more of Mohammed and the other four accused in coming weeks and months.
“This issue needs to be resolved today,” Pohl said.