Guantánamo: Secret evidence is thorny issue at 9/11 pretrial hearing
At Guantánamo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged 9/11 co-conspirators were back in court. Their lawyers complained about not being able to show them 'classified' evidence.
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The one lawyer who has signed the agreement is James Connell, counsel for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali. He said he signed the agreement in the hopes of speeding the discovery process. But he quickly added that he has yet to receive any significant government evidence.Skip to next paragraph
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Also on Monday, two federal agents testified about their involvement in interrogating Mustafa al-Hawsawi, a co-conspirator who allegedly offered logistics and financial support prior to the 9/11 operation.
Hawsawi’s lawyer, US Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, sought details of the circumstances of his client’s questioning at Guantánamo after years of enduring harsh interrogations in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The agents, one with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the other a military investigator, were part of a team assembled to collect un-coerced statements from various detainees that could later be admitted as evidence against them at a trial.
Mr. Ruiz asked why the agents conducted the interrogation without the use of a translator. Hawsawi is an Arabic speaker who knows some English.
The questions suggest that Ruiz will attempt later during the trial to undercut the evidentiary value of any statements his client made to the agents by suggesting that he did not fully understand what was being asked.
One of the agents, Steven McClain, a member of a Defense Department counter-terrorism task force, said he did not seek to test Hawsawi’s comprehension of the English language prior to the interrogation.
“Who decided Hawsawi would not use a translator in the interrogation,” Ruiz asked.
“I do not recall,” McClain said. “He was asked if he wanted a translator. He said no.”
McClain said the audio of the interrogations was not recorded. He noted that there were cameras in the interrogation room but he did not know if the sessions were videotaped.
Ruiz asked if Hawsawi was given Miranda warnings or advised of a right to see a lawyer.
“No,” the agent responded.
McClain said the interrogators told Hawsawi that he was free to end the questioning and leave the interrogation room at any time.
“Was he shackled,” Ruiz asked.
A prosecutor objected to the question, saying that issue would be explored in a later hearing.
“Sustained,” the judge declared.
Did Hawsawi appear to understand the questions, Ruiz asked.
McClain said that based on his observations, Hawsawi “fully understood what was happening” in the interrogation room.
Progress during the Monday session came haltingly in large part because of health issues raised by two defendants.
Hawsawi arrived at the hearing wearing a neck brace. Ruiz told the judge that his client had a back condition that made it difficult to sit for long periods of time. After attending a portion of the hearing, Hawsawi told the judge he wanted to return to the camp and voluntarily waived his right to be present at the pre-trial hearing.
Later in the afternoon, a second defendant, Walid Bin Attash, told his lawyer that he was not feeling well. But unlike Hawsawi, Bin Attash was unwilling to waive his right to be present at the hearing.
Judge Pohl questioned a physician who had examined Bin Attash about a stomach condition. The doctor said the condition was painful and that Bin Attash had been receiving medical treatment for the condition for 10 days.
The judge recessed the hearing about an hour early. It is unclear whether Bin Attash will feel well enough to attend Tuesday’s scheduled hearing.
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