FORT MEADE, Md.—The pretrial hearing at Guantanamo Bay against the alleged architects of the 9/11 attacks were abruptly halted Monday after only about 10 minutes when one of the defendants indicated he wants to represent himself rather than have an attorney.
Yemeni prisoner Walid Bin Attash requested the procedures for self-representation at the first opportunity, creating the latest delay in a pretrial that has been postponed for several years.
He was one of five detainees at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba who appeared before Lt. Col. Judge James Pohl in the military court. The most well-know of the five –alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — was dressed in military garb and a vibrantly orange-colored beard.Mohammed consented to the proceedings, unlike Bin Attash.
Bin Attash told his attorney, Cheryl Bormann, that he no longer trusts his legal team and would rather proceed without representation.
“He tells us that he doesn’t know whether or not there is an FBI agent on his team,” Bormann said. “Why? Well because there were FBI informants on other teams. He tells us as he sits here today that he has no idea if there is a CIA operative on his team. Why? Well because in this bizarre setting that actually has occurred.”
Bin Attash’s mistrust stems from a secret FBI investigation of the defense counsel that surfaced last year. The government has since acknowledged secretly monitoring earlier proceedings involving the same defendants.
Bormann, who was dressed in a black abaya, a head-to-toe Muslim robe in deference to Bin Attash’s religion, said she didn’t know that Bin Attash planned to ask for self-representation. She conferred with her client during the recess that was called because of the request.
“[He] Explained to me today that he believes that he is still subject of torture, that where he is in Camp 7 and the constantly changing scenarios at Camp 7 are a duplicate of what he experienced in black sites,” Bormann said once the hearing resumed. “He feels like he has no relief from the torture and that everything is orchestrated by the United States government here.”
Camp 7 is one of the camps in which Bin Attash and other detainees are held. Bormann said Bin Attash fears that he will be tortured for speaking out.
Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, chief prosecutor, responded to Bormann’s concerns about what self-representation would look like for Bin Attash by saying that he would be able to participate in hearings and could communicate with other detainees under a “sphere of privilege.”
Bormann said that Bin Attash hasn’t received his Sixth Amendment rights.
The pretrial will continue Tuesday morning, made viewable by live stream signaled into Fort Meade Army Base.