Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Claims accused terrorist is intimidating fell -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Claims accused terrorist is intimidating fellow detainees

The World Today - Friday, 6 June , 2008 12:11:00

Reporter: Kim Landers

ELEANOR HALL: Today in Cuba, where the most high profile alleged al-Qaeda terrorist in United
States custody is now being accused of intimidating some of his fellow detainees.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could be seen talking to his four co-accused at his first court appearance
today at the Guantanamo Bay military commission. Now defence lawyers are accusing the alleged
September the 11th mastermind of seizing the chance to intimidate others in the courtroom and are
demanding an investigation.

It's the first time these high value detainees have been seen in public since their capture.

Our North America correspondent, Kim Landers, is at the hearing in Cuba. She joins us from there
now on a somewhat shaky line.

Kim, tell us what could you see happening between Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-accused in the
courtroom today?

KIM LANDER: Well Eleanor, all five men were quite animated. They were chatting and talking quite
loudly among themselves in Arabic before the military judge walked in to the courtroom today.

A little bit later on it seemed like they were passing something between themselves at stages,
perhaps a note. I couldn't quite see what that was. They did chat to each other throughout the
hearing. In fact, at one point the judge had to tell them sort of to be quiet and not say anything,
listen to him.

But then it was curious. One by one, as the judge asked them if they wanted to accept their US
military lawyers and their civilian lawyers they started to give similar responses. They rejected
the legal help, they denounced the legitimacy of the proceedings.

And then it came to the fifth detainee, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. Now, he's a Saudi who's believed
to have helped the hijackers enrol in flight schools in the US and manage bank accounts.

And he reportedly met with Osama bin Laden after the attacks. So his lawyer got up and told the
court that there had been some intimidation going on. He sort of spurted out in the court and then
a little bit later, a short time ago he told reporters outside the courtroom.

Here's how Major Jon Jackson explained what happened at a press conference a short time ago.

JON JACKSON: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is saying to my client, "What are you in the American army
now?" That's what was said. And then other conversations were going on, and I can tell you from my
impression it was clear that Mr Mohammed was attempting to intimidate Mr al-Hawsawi into not
accepting me as counsel, intimidate.

Mr al-Hawsawi, my impression, I saw him in court - he was shaking. He was shaking about his
decision that he was going to have to make as far as who his counsel was going to be.

ELEANOR HALL: That's defence lawyer, Major Jon Jackson.

Kim, did the prosecution have anything to say about these allegations of intimidation by Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed?

KIM LANDERS: Well not in the courtroom they didn't.

First of all the judge said that he's going to have to have a think about what Major Jackson has
told the court. The prosecution didn't make any comment. They never objected during all this sort
of talking, and backwards and forwarding between the five detainees.

You've got to remember that these five detainees have not been able to talk or see each other since
they were brought here to Guantanamo Bay a couple of years ago. Of course before that they've been
held in secret CIA prisons.

So it was their first chance sort of chat together. But it was curious, there were no notions from
the prosecution, no attempt to shut down this chatter.

As I mentioned, the judge did admonish the men for talking during proceedings, but the prosecution
never objected.

Colonel Lawrence Morris is the chief prosecutor, here's what he said a short time ago:

LAWRENCE MORRIS: You've got to see, the world got to see five individuals who are pretty confident
of each other, clearly know each other pretty well, have a pretty long standing relationship,
pretty comfortable in that place. And I think we saw in some of their instances pretty proud of
what they've done.

I believe this was the first opportunity that those individuals had to speak to each other.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the chief prosecutor, Colonel Lawrence Morris.

Kim, did the prosecution have anything to say about why these suspects were all allowed to be there
together before the proceedings had begun?

KIM LANDERS: No, I do know from a briefing that we had yesterday that these suspects had all been
brought to sort of individual holding cells, if you like, outside the courtroom before the hearing.
They'd been kept separate.

But once they were in the courtroom, I walked through that courtroom yesterday, these tables were
just lined up one behind another, with the accused detainees sitting at the end of their table and
their lawyers beside them. So they're all fairly close to each other.

These men were not restrained. Only one of them was restrained. They didn't get up and walk around
or anything like that. But they did sort of call out and talk to each other, obviously in Arabic
most of the time.

So the prosecution didn't mention anything about this during the hearing. And as you've just heard
from the chief prosecutor, Colonel Lawrence Morris there, he really is not giving a very fulsome
explanation of why he's allowed, why he thinks the prosecution and indeed the judge allowed that
sort of chatter to go on.

It's my understanding that in previous appearances before military commissions that sort of, you
know, chatter from detainees is not very common. Although this is a rare because we do have a group
of five men being tried together for this September the 11th conspiracy.

ELEANOR HALL: Yes, it's interesting that the prosecution hasn't gone for separate trials. Can you
briefly outline for us what it is that these five detainees are charged with?

KIM LANDERS: They're facing a host of charges. And basically each of them is facing 2,973 charges
of murder, for each and every one of those people who died in the attacks on the World Trade
Centre, the Pentagon and that crashed plane in a Pennsylvania field.

They're also charged with supporting terrorism, conspiracy. Four of the five of them are charged
with hijacking a plane although they weren't actually on these planes, of course. So they're all
facing the death penalty, these charges.

It was funny, one of the detainees quit today, you know he wanted to know that, "If we're executed,
will we be buried here at Guantanamo Bay or will our bodies be sent home?" The judge simply replied
to that, "I'm not going to answer that at this stage".

ELEANOR HALL: And Kim, has the defence said anything about why these detainees are being charged
together, they're not in separate trials?

KIM LANDERS: They're not happy. At least the lawyers for the fifth detainee that I mentioned a
little bit earlier, that they've moved to have a separate trial, if you like. It's unclear why
these sorts of motions have not been filed before today.

Today was just a preliminary hearing, a hearing to read out the charges and to try to see if these
men accepted their military and civilian lawyers that have been appointed for them. But at least
one of these detainees, his lawyer is going to push for a separate charge.

What we've also got to remember is that three of these detainees including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
have now been given permission by the judge in this case, to represent themselves. Now these men
are due to face trial sometime in mid-September, not long after the September the 11th anniversary.

Goodness knows how it is that they're going to be able to represent themselves and draft motions
and all of this sort of thing. So that's another complication to this very complicated military
commission process, Eleanor.

ELEANOR HALL: Kim Landers at the military commission in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Thanks very much
for that.