Date: May 08 2012
WASHINGTON: The trial of five men accused of plotting the September 11 attacks could go on ''for years'', lawyers for the defence and prosecution said.
The predictions on Sunday came a day after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants turned their arraignment at a Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunal into a 13-hour stand-off. The accused appeared intent on frustrating the process by refusing to answer questions.
The chief prosecutor, Brigadier General Mark Martins, said he expected the defence to file a barrage of motions complaining the Guantanamo legal process was unfair and unconstitutional.
The trial date for the five accused, who face the death penalty if convicted of 2976 counts of murder in the 2001 attacks, is set for May 2013. But James Connell, for the defence, said that date was only a ''placeholder''. Several of the lawyers complained the process was rigged to lead to the execution of their clients, complaining about restrictions on what they could discuss.
A crucial part of the case will be the defence's effort to present evidence, as mitigation against death sentences, of torture while the defendants were in the custody of the CIA. But General Martins characterised such complaints as ''a bit misleading''.
The trial has also been criticised by human rights groups and former military lawyers for being too secretive and loaded in favour of the prosecution. The accused were kept for several years in CIA ''black'' sites without legal rights and subjected to treatment the Red Cross has said amounted to torture.
Mr Connell said the arraignment, in which the accused were given Pentagon-paid defence lawyers, offered an insight.
''[It] demonstrates that this will be a long, hard-fought but peaceful struggle against secrecy, torture and the misguided institution of the military commissions,'' he said.
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