9/11 accused want to plead guilty

The self-styled mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and four co-defendants told a military judge at Guantanamo they wanted to confess and plead guilty.

A note to the judge said the defendants made the decision on 4 December, which was the day Barack Obama was elected to become the next US president.

Obama has said he will shut down the widely condemned Guantanamo prison camp and try detainees in the regular US civilian or military courts rather than the special Guantanamo tribunals created by the Bush administration.

Several of the defendants had said at previous hearings that they welcomed martyrdom, and they may have felt that opportunity slipping away with Obama's election.

The judge said he would question the five, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has already said he planned the Sept. 11 attacks "from A to Z," to ensure they understood the impact of their decision. All five could face the death penalty.

The judge, Army Col. Steven Henley, said he would not accept any guilty pleas during the hearings scheduled this week but did not explain why.

He read from the defendants' note, which began: "We all five have reached an agreement to request from the commission an immediate hearing session in order to announce our confessions ... with our earnest desire in this regard without being under any kind of pressure, threat, intimidations or promise from any party."

The note said all five wished to plead guilty and withdraw all pending motions filed by their military-appointed lawyers, whom they do not trust and have tried to fire.

"I am not trusting any Americans," Mohammed said in English during an appearance before the judge.

The announcement came as a surprise as the US military resumed pretrial hearings at the Guantanamo naval base, in a remote US-controlled corner of Cuba, for the accused plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The judge questioned whether the law underpinning the Guantanamo tribunals allowed him to accept a guilty plea in a capital case. If the defendants are allowed to plead guilty, the case would still go through several automatic appeals, so the any death sentence would likely not be carried out for years.

The hearings went forward as scheduled, even though the pending change in the US administration made it unlikely the defendants' trials would ever be held at the base.

Mohammed, a Pakistani, and four others - Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi, Walid bin Attash and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali - were charged earlier this year with conspiring with al Qaeda to kill civilians.

They face 2,973 counts of murder, one for each person killed when al Qaeda militants crashed hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

This week marks the fourth time the defendants have appeared before a tribunal judge at Guantanamo but there is no chance the case will be ready for trial before Obama takes office on 20 January.

Obama's transition team has met with officials from the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions, which runs the tribunals, but details of the talks have not been made public.

In the meantime, the Pentagon is pressing forward with hearings.

"In the military that's what you do, keep moving forward to make things happen. You keep moving forward until you're ordered to do otherwise," said a spokesman for the Pentagon office that runs the tribunals, Joe Dellavedova.

The Pentagon arranged for members of five families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks to travel to the remote Guantanamo base for the hearing, marking the first time any victims' relatives have been present at the proceedings.

They were chosen by lottery from among more than 100 who applied, said a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower