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Guantanamo detainees ask judge to accept confessions

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — All five of the Guantanamo detainees charged with planning and coordinating the Sept. 11 attacks have asked a military judge to accept their confessions in full.

The request appeared to be intended to cut short any effort to try them, and to challenge the U.S. government to put them to death.

But the military judge in the case, Col. Steven Henley of the Army, indicated that he would not accept guilty pleas from the men right away, and that formal proceedings to do so may be awhile off.

At the start of what had been expected to be routine proceedings Monday, Henley disclosed that he had received a written statement from the five men. The statement said the five planned to stop filing written motions and instead "to announce our confessions to plea in full."

Henley began questioning each of the five men to determine if they agreed with the joint statement, which was written after lengthy meetings that military officials had permitted them to hold in recent months.

"Yes," Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has described himself as the mastermind of the 2001 attacks, answered brusquely. "We don't want to waste our time with motions."

Another of the detainees, Ramzi Binalshibh, told the judge, "We the brothers, all of us, would like to submit our confession." He is charged with being the primary contact with the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Military prosecutors have sought the death penalty against all five men. Henley directed the prosecutors to provide him with a legal brief on whether the Military Commissions Act, which governs the proceedings, would permit the imposition of the death penalty without a vote of the military panel that hears cases, much as a jury votes on cases in civilian court.

"When they admitted their guilt, my reaction was, 'Yes!', " said Maureen Santora, of Long Island City, N.Y., whose son Christopher, a firefighter, died responding to the World Trade Center attacks. Santora was one of nine victims' relatives watching the proceedings, the first time relatives of the 2,975 people killed in the attacks were allowed to observe the war-crimes trials.

Alice Hoagland of Redwood Estates, Calif., whose son Mark Bingham was on United Flight 93, said the defendants "do not deserve the glory of executions."

Guantanamo detainees ask judge to accept confessions 12/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 11:42am]

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