Nearly a decade after being captured, the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the September 11 terrorist attack will be arraigned this weekend along with four other alleged al-Qaeda operatives.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who once explained to military authorities that he planned the 9/11 attacks “from A to Z,” will again go before officials at the Guantanamo Bay US military prison on Saturday. It will be the second time that he is being charged for his alleged role in the biggest terror attack in American history.
But nearly eleven years after the World Trade Center came crashing down, the end of the hunt for justice might be a long time in the making.
Although Mohammed has admitted to orchestrating the attacks in the past, he isn’t expected to give authorities an easy time this weekend. "I don't think anyone is going to plead guilty,” Jim Harrington, the civilian lawyer for co-defendant Ramzi Binalshibh, tells the court. Speaking of his own client, Harrington says, "He has no intention of pleading guilty.”
While Mohammed has admitted his role in the attacks before, his past testimonies are expected to be trashed. Before being transferred to Gitmo, Mohammad and his co-defendants were held overseas at secret CIA shadow prisons where US officials admit that they were subjected to forms of torture, or “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Before admitting his role in 9/11, Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times, official say.
The last time the alleged criminals were tried — or the court attempted, at least — was in 2008. All five appeared before a military commission, but the judicial branch stepped in and demanded that new rules be written for handling the case.
"The original set of rules and laws that were set down under the Bush administration for the trial by military commission were basically struck down by the Supreme Court, so they had to start over and basically put together a new framework, a new regime," Neal Puckett, a lawyer and retired Marine colonel, tells CNN.
This time around, the alleged terrorists will be brought to court before a military tribunal with new rules drafted with the aid of both the US Executive and Legislative branches. Originally President Barack Obama had asked for a federal court in New York to hear the trial, but opponents quickly demanded that the government go about a new way for handling the case. Now some fear that that will only add to more problems.
"There's no precedence at all to rely on; this is sort of make it up as you go," Rear Adm. Donald Guter, a former top lawyer for the US Navy, adds to CNN.
"I've had conversations with other people who believe the circus is going to begin with the first appearance," says Guter.
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch and a former federal prosecutor, tells the Associated Press that he sees why there are issues with the trial already too.
"There still are major problems in terms of whether the trial will be fair and, more important, will they be perceived as fair," Ross tells the AP.