Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – There is a reason that the decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court was met with unabashed criticism. It was because everyone knew that the trial would turn into a circus. This time the critics were right.
In addition to the defendants doing everything in their power to disrupt the hearings and turn them into a joke, they got a little help from their appointed defense attorney, Cheryl Bormann.
Bormann showed up to the first day of the trial wearing the full Muslim Hijab, a full head covering in addition to making sure her legs and arms were covered (see court sketch above). She also admonished other women in the courtroom and asked the judge to order all women who enter the court room to wear appropriately modest clothing in order not to offend her client’s Muslim beliefs.
Bormann is counsel for defendant Walid bin Attash. She said that her client insists that she wear the Hijab and she asked all the other women to dress modestly do her client will not have to avert his eyes out of fear of committing a sin.
At a press conference Sunday at Guantanamo Bay Bormann told the press that the women should dress modestly for her clients because,
“When you’re on trial for your life, you need to be focused.”
Bormann, who is not Muslim, said that on Saturday, “somebody” was also dressed “in a way that was not in keeping with my client’s religious beliefs.”
“If because of someone’s religious beliefs, they can’t focus when somebody in the courtroom is dressed in a particular way, I feel it is incumbent upon myself as a counsel to point that out and ask for some consideration from the prosecution. Suffice to say it was distracting to members of the accused.”
The defendants while asking for respect seemed not to be in the mood to give it during the first day of the trial. They refused to listen to the headphones which broadcast the Arabic translation of what was going on. They repeatedly stood up in court and started praying and their lawyer used every opportunity to ask for delays such as having the entire charge sheet read out loud. The first day’s preliminary hearing was supposed to last an hour or two and wound up lasting 13 hours.
Defense lawyer James Connell said Sunday that he wants to make sure the defense has every opportunity to file every motion and throw every curve ball they can at him because he doesn’t want any chance of a conviction being dismissed. The defendants are facing more than 2,700 counts of murder and terrorism and face the death penalty.
Human rights groups are criticizing the military tribunals for their secrecy saying that the American military is trying them this way so as to not make public that the defendants may have been mistreated. They point out that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded more than 180 times.