Give me the death penalty, says the 'mastermind' of September 11

In his first public appearance since he was seized in his pyjamas five years ago, the self-described mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, told a military court in Guantanamo Bay yesterday that he would welcome the death penalty.

The hearing descended into farce at times as the senior al-Qa'ida operative sang verses from the Koran in Arabic – pausing to translate them in English – and lodged an objection about the courtroom artist making his nose look too wide.

Mr Mohammed also announced that he was sacking his military-appointed lawyers. Mr Mohammed, who was tortured by waterboarding after his capture in Pakistan, declared: "I will represent myself. [I]... cannot accept any attorney who is governed ... [by law] ... rather than the Lord of the law."

Informed by Judge Ralph H Kohlmann that he faced the death penalty for organising the 2001 attacks on America, he said: "Yes, this is what I wish, to be a martyr for a long time. I will, God willing, have this, by you."

Fearing that the military courtroom would be used for propaganda on behalf of al-Qai'da, only selected reporters were allowed to watch the trial unfold on closed-circuit television, which had a 20-second delay to enable censors to act.

Witnesses said Mr Mohammed was sporting a long grey beard and military-issue black sunglasses. He was wearing a neat, unblemished white tunic and turban but he asked the courtroom artist to use the widely-used photograph of him looking dishevelled when he was seized in Pakistan as a guide and make his nose look as it did in that picture.

According to US military transcripts of a hearing last year, Mr Mohammed said he had overseen "from A to Z" the attacks that killed 2,973 people in New York, Washington and rural Pennsylvania more than six years ago. But yesterday he backtracked, saying in broken English: "They mistranslated my words and put many words in my mouth."

He and four other defendants were moved yesterday morning from their cells to a specially built military courtroom in Guantanamo Bay for their first court appearance since being captured. The exact location of Mr Mohammed's cell is a secret and he has not been seen in public since being photographed on his capture.

The five men were arraigned on war crimes charges. Mr Mohammed smiled and chatted with those at the defence table where Waleed bin Attash, who is accused of recruiting and training some of the 19 hijackers, was sitting. The other defendants are the alleged logistical co-ordinators of the attacks, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. Without explanation, charges against another man, Mohammed al-Qahtani, were dropped last month.

Yesterday's arraignments are also a test for the much criticised military tribunals. A Supreme Court ruling is due this month on the challenge that basic human rights have been denied Guantanamo prisoners. Among the questions yet to be resolved is whether waterboarding – which is banned by the US military but not the CIA – constitutes torture, whether confessions obtained by coercion are admissible and what psychological damage the defendants have suffered.

Mr Mohammed's former defence team claim that he may have suffered cognitive impairment after being tortured by the CIA. The Bush administration has already acknowledged that he was waterboarded – a technique that involves strapping a person down while forcing water into his mouth so that he believes he is drowning.

The first military commissions were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2006. Resurrected by Congress, they have remained under a cloud ever since and challenged repeatedly as unconstitutional.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it