AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
WASHINGTON: The self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and four co-accused will be formally arraigned tomorrow at Guantanamo Bay, a last step before a long-awaited trial after years of legal delays.
It will mark a decisive stage more than a decade after the most lethal attacks on US soil in modern history. It also comes the same week that President Barack Obama is marking a year since he ordered the US Navy SEALs raid that took down the man behind it all — Osama bin Laden.
“There is a desire for justice, it is an important moment for all of us,” said Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for president George W Bush who has defended the Bush administration’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques on terror suspects.
One of the last steps before the so-called ‘trial of the century’ takes place, the arraignment has generated feverish interest. It marks the second time the United States has tried to prosecute the 9/11 suspects.
Out of 200 applicants, 60 journalists have obtained a seat for the hearing at the US naval base in southern Cuba, while another 30 will cover the event from Fort Meade in Maryland using a closed-circuit television feed.
“It’s key to have transparency,” the military commissions’ chief prosecutor, Brigadier General Mark Martins, told AFP.
Five accused of September 11, 2001 attacks
• Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, 47: A Kuwaiti-born Pakistani educated in the United States, he claims to be the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks and a whole string of other crimes, including the beheading of US reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Known as KSM, Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times between his capture in Pakistan in March 2003 and his transfer to Guantanamo in September 2006
• Ramzi Binalshibh, 40: A citizen of Yemen, he co-rented a flat in Hamburg, Germany, with suspected 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta. US officials say he tried but failed four times to obtain a US visa to become a pilot-hijacker. Captured in Pakistan in September 2002, bin al-Shibh is accused of serving as the primary link between the hijackers in the US and al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the eight months before the attacks
• Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, around 35: A Pakistani raised in Kuwait who is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew and a cousin of jailed 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Youssef. Also known as Ammar al-Baluchi, he is believed to have played a key role in helping facilitate 9/11 logistics by transferring funds to US-based operatives and helping hijackers travel from Pakistan to the United States. He was captured in April 2003 in Pakistan.
• Walid bin Attash, around 33: Raised by Yemeni parents in Saudi Arabia, he is accused of being the mastermind of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole destroyer that killed 17 US soldiers in Yemen. Also known as Khallad, he lost his right leg during a 1997 battle in Afghanistan and supervised training at an al-Qaeda camp there where he trained two of the September 11 hijackers along with other operatives. Allegedly chosen by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at the outset to become a 9/11 hijacker himself, he was captured in April 2003
• Mustapha al-Hawsawi, 43: A Saudi associate of bin Laden accused of holding the group’s purse strings in its first years of existence, and of having arranged funding for the September 11 plot. Both Hawsawi and Ramzi Binalshibh are said to have served as a communications link between Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the 9/11 hijackers. He was captured in Pakistan in March 2003, when special forces stormed the villa in which he was hiding along with Mohammed