FORT MEADE, Md. — The Sept. 11 war-crimes case before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, resumed relatively smoothly Monday as five men accused of being co-conspirators in the attacks were calm and cooperative in the first session of a weeklong pretrial hearing. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the other four defendants each spoke directly — some through a translator — with the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl. The atmosphere on the first day contrasted sharply with a chaotic arraignment hearing in May, when they refused to answer the judge’s questions.
On Monday, when the judge asked each whether he understood his right to decide not to attend sessions of the commission — and that choosing to stay away could damage his defense — each replied to him. “Yes, but I don’t think there is any justice in this court,” Mohammed said.
The military installed small speakers that quietly broadcast a simultaneous Arabic translation near the seats of the five defendants. In May, the five men refused to wear their headphones, forcing translators to repeat every utterance in Arabic over courtroom loudspeakers, further slowing the proceedings.
Monday’s session began a hearing of pretrial motions scheduled to last through the week at the high-security courtroom erected at Guantanamo for the long-delayed trial. The proceedings were shown to reporters at the base and those watching via a closed-circuit feed at Fort Meade outside Washington. The remote feed had a 40-second delay, giving the military the option of censoring any statement it deemed to include classified information. The change from the chaotic May session was apparent early as two co-defendants, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Ramzi Binalshibh, spoke through translators directly with Pohl when he asked about a possible conflict of interest in al-Hawsawi’s defense team, which included Navy Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier, who had represented Binalshibh several years ago.