Case resumes against ‘9/11 plotter’ Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Case resumes against '9/11 plotter' Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

It’s been 20 years since 9/11, and the trial of the alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, has resumed after months of delays. 

Mohammed, also known as KSM, joined four co-defendents, Ammar al-Baluchi, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawasawi, in the pretrial hearings for the first time since the proceedings were suspended in February 2020. 

When finally moved to trial, KSM will face 2,976 counts of murder and related charges — tied to the toppling of the Twin Towers, the attack on the Pentagon and the airliner downed in a field in Shanksville, Pa. on Sept. 11, 2001 — before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He and his co-defendants will face the death penalty. No date for the trial has been set. 

The delay in proceedings has been caused by a myriad of issues, from the coronavirus pandemic, to judges retiring or moving on, and procedural issues, particularly the admissibility of evidence obtained by the Central Intelligence Agency through the use of torture. 

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, right, speaks with lawyer and U.S. Marine Corps Major Derek Poteet, a member of his legal team, while wearing a camouflage vest during the third day of the Military Commissions pretrial hearing against the five Guantanamo prisoners accused of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will face 2,976 counts of murder and related charges.
AP Photo/Janet Hamlin, Pool

Tuesday’s hearing was presided over by Lt Col Matthew McCall, who is the fourth judge on the the case. Much of the hearing revolved around defense lawyers questioning McCall’s qualifications and links to previous lawyers involved in the case, the Guardian reported. 

This week’s hearings are set to last until Sept. 17, and will be followed by another set of hearings from Nov. 1-19, according to ABC News. Proceedings can be halted at any time for national security reasons. The hearings are now in their ninth year. 

Mohammed was captured in March 2003 in a house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, along with al-Hawsawi and several others.

Al-Qaeda's Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in March 2003 in a house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

While he admitted to committing multiple horrors, including personally decapitating Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl on video, organizing the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, another bombing at a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, “shoe bomber” Richard Reid’s failed attempt to blow up a passenger plane over the Atlantic Ocean, and “the 9/11 operation,” he made the admissions at a secret, overseas CIA “black site” where he was waterboarded 183 times and subjected to other “enhanced interrogation” techniques. As a result, none of that evidence has been able to be used against him.

The Department of Defense came under fire earlier this year when KSM and other detainees at Guantanamo Bay were administered the coronavirus vaccine before much of the American public. 

Shocked crowds of downtown Manhattanites observe the burning World Trade Center towers in New York City early September 11, 2001.
Shocked crowds of downtown Manhattanites observe the burning World Trade Center towers in New York City, September 11, 2001.
Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

In January, a spokesman for the Department of Defense confirmed that officials had signed an order which will see COVID-19 vaccinations “offered to all detainees and prisoners.”

As of July, 39 prisoners remain at Guantanamo. 

In 2019, Richard Miniter, author of the 2011 book “Mastermind: The Many Faces of the 9/11 Architect, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed,” said it was unlikely KSM would get the death penalty, noting that the military hasn’t executed anyone since 1961.

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