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Families of 9/11 Victims Watch Defendants Confess at Guantanamo Bay

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2008 – Relatives of 9/11 victims got their first chance yesterday to observe legal proceedings for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, charged in the attacks, as three of the alleged co-conspirators announced they are prepared to enter a guilty plea.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak bin Attash and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali asked the military judge to dismiss all previous motions filed on their behalf, Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, reported from Guantanamo Bay.

Army Col. Stephen R. Henley confirmed that he had received a written statement from the three and two other alleged co-defendants in early November, informing him they plan to file no additional legal motions.

Khalid, Walid and Ali deferred yesterday from entering a plea until mental competency hearings for the two remaining co-defendants are resolved, Gordon said. Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Mustafa al-Hawsawi also are charged in connection with the attacks.

Ramzi has undergone a psychological exam and competency board, but still requires a competency hearing. Mustafa requires both a competency board and hearing, Gordon said.

All five co-defendants are charged with conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, terrorist and providing material support for terrorism.

“These are extraordinarily complex issues, and we have worked hard to ensure that those accused of war crimes get full and fair trials,” Gordon said of the proceedings.

Families of five 9/11 victims sat through the hearing, and several talked last night with reporters about their impressions.

Maureen Santora, whose firefighter son, Christopher, died in the World Trade Center, expressed relief upon hearing the co-defendants confess. But others, including Alice Hoagland, whose son, Mark Bingham, was on United Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pa., said the defendants should not be allowed to fulfill their wishes to become martyrs.

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