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9/11 defendants' trial, another piece of US theater   

Arab News - 08 May, 2012
Author: Linda Heard

The second attempt by US authorities to try one of several alleged masterminds of 9/11 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-accused is a farce reminiscent of the trial of Saddam Hussein that had a preordained outcome.

The idea that military judges will pronounce any of the four innocent is as ridiculous as the existence of a tooth fairy; those erstwhile actors in this ongoing play might as well be dressed like the Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland” who famously shouted “off with their heads.”

Even in the extremely unlikely event of one or more being permitted to walk, the US would announce that they were far too dangerous to go free and lock them up in perpetuity. Moreover, this is a trial that’s heavily tainted with politics and the sentiments of a section of the American public still baying for retribution. If even a single defendant were judged innocent, Obama’s presidential rivals would capitalize by saying he was soft on terrorism while the public outcry would resonate as far away as Katmandu.

Like the US/Iraqi kangaroo court that sent Saddam to the rope, the Guantanamo military tribunal is more concerned with suppressing evidence than sticking to the letter of the law. America and its Iraqi sycophants refused to allow mention of any US complicity in the former Iraqi leader’s crimes. And those ostensibly judging Mohammed and the other accused have barred reference to the years of torture they endured while in US custody which in any other court would be pertinent to the case. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was water-boarded — a practice meant to simulate drowning — 182 times in one month so it’s no wonder he sounds like he’s short of a few marbles.

Cheryl Bormann, a defense lawyer for another accused Walid bin Attash, says her client has scars on his arms while James Connell who represents Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali is determined to introduce torture into the proceedings saying, “These men have endured years of inhumane treatment and torture. This treatment has had serious long-term effects and will ultimately infect every aspect of this military commission tribunal.”

In most democracies, evidence obtained from torture is inadmissible which is at it should be as anyone experiencing extreme pain or who believes he’s on the point of death will say just about anything his torturers want to hear. In 2010, even China, which isn’t big on human rights, disallowed such evidence which was hailed by the dean of Beijing Normal University’s law school as “a systematic and clear regulation” telling “law enforcers that evidence obtained through illegal means is not only illegal but also useless.”

It’s unsurprising that the defendants are refusing to cooperate, turning the first day of the trial into a farce by refusing to answer questions and interrupting proceedings with prayer and protest. They know very well that the system is loaded against them and they have nothing to gain by their compliance. Had they been incarcerated on the US mainland in accordance with international law and the Geneva Conventions before being submitted before a civilian court, it would have been a different story. They would have received their just legal dues like any alleged mass murderers and the US legal system would have been respected rather than sporting a badge of shame. If the accused are, indeed, guilty of having a hand in 9/11, they deserve no sympathy but unless we’re naive enough to consider the powers that be in America as being morally superior or beyond reproach, unless and until they are fairly tried with the accent on “fair”, they should be considered innocent. Law should be immutable. It isn’t something that should be played-around with based on PR or politics. If US civilian courts are not deemed competent to try alleged terrorists they should be overhauled. If the US security apparatus isn’t equipped to protect accused terrorists from the crowd with all the manpower and assets at its disposal then it’s not as sophisticated as it’s made out to be.

But all those excuses for keeping Guantanamo open well past its sell-by date and holding military tribunals up to ten years after the arrest of Mohammed — cited by the 9/11 Commission Report as “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks” — are red herrings, designed to prevent the truth about that terrible day in 2001 from reaching the public sphere. If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is the “principal architect” then why was Osama Bin Laden promoted as America’s number one bogeyman with Egyptian-born Ayman Al-Zawahiri his second-in-command?

Not only was the 9/11 Commission Report full of holes, no doubt because it was compiled in an atmosphere of rampant nationalism, fury and fear, the one man who could have lifted the lid on the facts Osama Bin Laden was assassinated in his home in Pakistan by US Seals, his body hastily buried at sea. One can only speculate as to why he wasn’t rendered to one of America’s numerous detention facilities. He, more than anyone, could have offered-up a wealth of information and intelligence on the whereabouts of high-ranking members of Al-Qaeda. We must surely wonder why the frail, unarmed Al-Qaeda head honcho was shot down, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his buddies were interrogated and tortured.

Not to put too fine a point on it, there is a lot that we don’t know about 9-11 and we’ll certainly be no better off when this current military tribunal closes its doors. It seems to me that the US is dedicated to making sure we never find out. Anyone who asks valid questions, no matter how intellectually worthy they might be, are automatically labeled as crazy conspiracy theorists.

Every one of us on this planet has a right to the truth about 9/11. That despicable attack not only robbed almost 3,000 lives, the Bush administration’s response led, directly or indirectly, to the death of up to a million Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis. If might didn’t, unfortunately translate to right, the International Criminal Court in The Hague would have far bigger fish to fry than the former Liberian President Charles Taylor!

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