Tolerance. The trial for suspected 9/11 defendants, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, is underway in a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay this week and the lawyer for the defendants is wearing a full burqa in court in order to "respect" the religious beliefs of her clients.
The defense attorney who wore a traditional Islamic outfit during the rowdy arraignment of the accused Sept. 11 terrorists is defending her courtroom appeal that other women in the room wear more "appropriate" clothing to the proceedings -- out of respect for her client's Muslim beliefs.
Cheryl Bormann, counsel for defendant Walid bin Attash, attended the arraignment Saturday dressed in a hijab, apparently because her client insisted on it. She further requested that the court order other women to follow that example so that the defendants do not have to avert their eyes "for fear of committing a sin under their faith."
At a press conference Sunday at Guantanamo Bay, Bormann said she dresses in a hijab at "all times" when she meets with her client "out of respect" for his beliefs. Asked why she requested other women do the same, Bormann said, "When you're on trial for your life, you need to be focused."
Bormann, who is not Muslim, claimed the issue came up several years ago, when a paralegal wore "very short skirts" and it became a distraction for the defendants. She said that on Saturday, "somebody" was also dressed "in a way that was not in keeping with my client's religious beliefs."
"If because of someone's religious beliefs, they can't focus when somebody in the courtroom is dressed in a particular way, I feel it is incumbent upon myself as a counsel to point that out and ask for some consideration from the prosecution," she said. "Suffice to say it was distracting to members of the accused."
Not surprisingly, the detainees are on their best behavior:
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed fingered his long, henna-dyed beard and stared down in silence on Saturday, pointedly ignoring a military commissions judge asking in vain whether the self-described architect of the Sept. 11 attacks understood what was being said and whether he was willing to be represented by his defense lawyers.
Minutes later, Ramzi bin al Shibh, another of the five detainees arraigned on Saturday as accused conspirators in the attacks, stood, knelt and started praying. Later, he shouted at the judge that he should address their complaints about prison conditions because “maybe you are not going to see me again.”
“Maybe they are going to kill us and say that we have committed suicide,” he added.
One defendant, Walid bin Attash, was wheeled into the courtroom in a restraint chair for reasons that were not disclosed.
The court hearing for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants should have taken a couple of hours at most. Instead it lasted almost 13 hours, including meal and prayer breaks, as the men appeared to make a concerted effort to stall Saturday's hearing.
They knelt in prayer, ignored the judge, wouldn't listen to Arabic translations over their head sets and one even insisted on having the more than 20 pages detailing the charges against them read aloud, rather than deferred for later in their case as the judge wanted, which added more than two hours to the proceedings.
Meanwhile, the Islamic country of Iran is doing its best to execute Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani by throwing his lawyer in prison. The crime he committed? Converting from Islam to Christianity.
Prominent human rights advocate and attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, who represents the Christian pastor sentenced to death in Iran in a case that sparked international condemnation, has reportedly been sentenced to nine years in jail for allegedly "acting against national security" in Iran.
Dadkhah has represented several political and human rights activists jailed since Iran's 2009 disputed elections, including Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian pastor charged with apostasy and sentenced to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity.
"I have been convicted of acting against the national security, spreading propaganda against the regime and keeping banned books at home," Dadkhah told the Guardian. Dadkhah has also reportedly been banned from teaching at universities or practicing law for 10 years.
The American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, which has been working to secure the release of Nadarkhani, fears the decision to jail Dadkhah puts the Christian pastor at greater risk.
"The news that this renowned human rights attorney has been sentenced to prison by Iranian officials is very troubling," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ. "With his attorney facing nine years in prison, and no other lawyer likely to take the case, Pastor Youcef has no legal advocate, which places him at greater risk."