Accused 9/11 conspirator kicked out of Guantanamo hearing again

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 18, 2013 4:56 PM
Accused 9/11 conspirator kicked out of Guantanamo hearing again

By Lacey Johnson

FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - A Yemeni man accused of being a conspirator in the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington was expelled for the second day in a row from a courtroom on Wednesday in Guantanamo Bay for being disruptive.

"I have to leave. I want to leave," Ramzi Binalshibh, one of five defendants charged with plotting the 9/11 attacks, exclaimed in a pretrial hearing to consider a broad range of issues, including a challenge to the decision to make it a death penalty case.

Binalshibh, who is accused of wiring money to 9/11 hijackers and passing information to key al Qaeda operatives, was twice expelled from the courtroom on Tuesday for outbursts about poor prison conditions and noises keeping him awake in his cell at night.

"I told you. I asked you to stop these noises - vibrations," Binalshibh said to the presiding judge, Army Colonel James Pohl.

"Mr. Binalshibh, we are not going through this every day," Pohl said.

Binalshibh continued to shout and he was ordered out of the courtroom for the remainder of the morning session.

After less than 15 minutes in the courtroom for the afternoon session, Binalshibh was once again forced to leave for outbursts, including ones accusing Guantanamo Bay's warden, Army Colonel John Bogdan, of being a war criminal.

Pohl ordered that Binalshibh be escorted back to his cell until the hearing resumes on Thursday.

Bogdan, was questioned for more than four hours by defense counsel about how he runs the prison and his denials of special requests for attorney-client visits.

Binalshibh's attorney, Lieutenant Commander Kevin Bogucki, filed a special motion Wednesday afternoon to allow his client to testify about his prison conditions.

"Every time he's been ejected, it's been based on his efforts to bring to the court's attention ... (to) the ongoing abuse at the camp that interferes with his ability to assist in his own defense," Bogucki said.

Pohl agreed to consider the motion and promised to address it in court on Thursday morning.

Cheryl Bormann, defense attorney for suspected al Qaeda training camp leader Walid Binattash, said limited meeting hours at the prison and inconvenient flight schedules had interfered with her ability to defend her client.

"I want access to my client consistent with constitutional guarantees," she said.

No evening or weekend visits "makes our job almost impossible," she added. "If I need to have a conversation with today after court, I can't. That's impermissible."

The hearing, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, was monitored by Reuters over a closed-circuit broadcast at the Fort Meade, Maryland, army base.

The U.S. military has identified the defendants as "high-value detainees" who played key roles in plotting the September 11 attacks, which killed about 3,000 people, destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and damaged the Pentagon, outside of Washington.

The five defendants are alleged al Qaeda conspirators who could be executed if convicted of charges that include mass murder, terrorism and hijacking.

The defendants were captured in 2002 and 2003 and were first charged at Guantanamo in 2008. The tribunals and the charges were revised by the Obama administration, and the defendants were arraigned on the current charges in May 2012.

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)