FORT MEADE, Md. — Pretrial hearings for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged top al-Qaida operatives reopen Monday morning with a military commission judge expected to rule on numerous key disputes in the capital murder case for those accused of planning, financing and preparing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The hearings at the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, over the next five days will center on whether a top CIA official who oversaw the waterboarding of Mohammed should be compelled to testify about the harsh technique and whether public comments by President George W. Bush and other members of his administration so prejudiced the defendants' rights to a fair trial that the case itself should be thrown out.
Also at issue before Judge James L. Pohl, an Army colonel with a law degree from Pepperdine University, is the often-belligerent courthouse demeanor of Mohammed and the others, and whether they have been treated inhumanely after years at the island prison and now are psychologically unable to understand the case against them.
The weeklong hearings will mark the first time the defendants have been in court since May. At that time they appeared for a marathon arraignment session on an 87-page charge sheet that included conspiracy, murder, aircraft hijacking and terrorism. Roughly 3,000 people died in the attacks, and the charges carry the death penalty. A trial is tentatively set for next May.
Mohammed is the accused mastermind of the attacks, serving just under Osama bin Laden. The others are Ramzi Binalshib, the alleged plot cell manager, Walid bin Attash, an alleged al-Qaida training camp steward, and Ammar al Baluchi, a.k.a. Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Hawsawi, both alleged al-Qaida financiers.