US officials sought to testify in Gitmo 9/11 trial

AP News
Posted: May 15, 2012 9:12 PM
US officials sought to testify in Gitmo 9/11 trial

Defense teams in the Sept. 11 case at Guantanamo are asking a military judge to order senior U.S. government officials to testify at the U.S. base in Cuba as part of a motion to dismiss charges, a lawyer for one of the defendants said Tuesday.

The motion to dismiss includes a request to compel testimony from eight "top officials" from the administrations of President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, said Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, who represents Saudi defendant Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi.

Ruiz declined to identify the officials, and the motion has not been released pending a security review. A Pentagon spokesman also declined to release the list until it has been cleared for release.

Lawyers for three of the five Guantanamo prisoners charged with aiding and planning the Sept. 11 attacks have joined the motion, which seeks a dismissal of the charges under what is known in the military legal system as "unlawful influence," or an improper attempt to sway the case.

Ruiz said American officials have made statements that have "tainted the entire process" of prosecuting the five Guantanamo prisoners, who include the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

"In the military, a commander of an installation or of a ship can't make public statements about what they believe to be the person's guilt or innocence and what kind of punishment they ought to get," Ruiz said in a telephone interview. "The only difference in this case is you have basically higher ranked officers and administration officials who are making much more public statements about the process and the expectations of the process."

Mohammed and his four co-defendants were arraigned May 5 on charges that include terrorism and murder and could get the death penalty if convicted.

Lawyers for Mohammed and Walid bin Attash have not joined the motion to dismiss but might do so later, Ruiz said.

It was not clear when the judge might rule on the request. The next hearing in the case had been scheduled for June 12 but several of the defense teams have requested a postponement.