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U.S. to televise Guantánamo trials to 9-11 families

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By Jane Sutton
Fri Apr 18, 8:40 AM ET

GUANTÁNAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) – The U.S. military will televise
the Guantánamo trial of accused September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
and five other suspects so relatives of those killed in the attacks can watch
on the U.S. mainland.

“We’re going to broadcast in real time to several locations that will
be available just to victim families,” Army Col. Lawrence Morris, chief
prosecutor for the controversial war crimes court, said at the naval base recently.

In February, military prosecutors charged Mohammed and five other captives
with murder and conspiracy and asked that they be executed if convicted of plotting
to crash hijacked planes into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon
in 2001.

No trial date has been set but they are the first Guantánamo prisoners charged
with direct involvement in the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Morris said several of the victims’ relatives asked to watch the trials at
the detention center set up in Guantánamo Bay naval base to try foreign terrorism

The base sits on a dusty patch of the island of Cuba and does not have many
flights, beds or courtroom seats to accommodate spectators.

The trials will be beamed to closed-circuit television viewing sites on military
bases at Fort Hamilton in New York, Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, Fort Meade
in Maryland and Fort Devens in Massachusetts, Morris said.

The military is borrowing a page from the civilian court sentencing hearing
of Zacarias Moussaoui, a flight school student who is the only person convicted
in the United States in connection with the September 11 plot. He pleaded guilty
to conspiring with al Qaeda and was sentenced to life in prison.

U.S. federal courts normally ban cameras. But through an act of Congress, Moussaoui’s
2006 court hearing in Virginia was shown by closed-circuit television to victims’
families at courthouses in Boston, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“We got much more information from those hearings than we ever got from
the 9-11 Commission,” said Lorie Van Auken, whose husband Kenneth died
in the World Trade Center, referring to the investigation the U.S. Congress
launched into the attacks.


Some of the victims’ relatives praised the U.S. military for ensuring they
had access to the Guantánamo proceedings.

Hamilton Peterson, whose father and stepmother, Donald and Jean Peterson, died
on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, called the prosecutors “true
patriots,” and said he was grateful for “the ability to see justice
being fulfilled in one of the most significant attacks on America’s heartland.”

Others urged the trials be televised nationwide without restriction because
of the sweeping impact of the attacks.

The broadcasts will mark the first time a Guantánamo detainee’s face has been
shown publicly. The U.S. military prohibits journalists and other visitors from
taking photographs or video that shows faces, citing a provision of the Geneva
Conventions that aims to protect war captives from “insults and public

The U.S. military lawyer assigned to defend Mohammed, Navy Capt. Prescott Prince,
said if the trials are truly fair, then broadcasting them widely would prove
that to the world. But he worried about setting a precedent by televising what
he suspects will be show trials.

“I can just imagine American soldiers and sailors and airmen being subjected
to similar show trials worldwide,” he said.

He said he doubts the defendants can get a fair trial in the Guantánamo court
because it accepts hearsay evidence that may have been obtained through cruel
and dehumanizing means. The Geneva provision cited in shielding prisoners’ faces
also bans “acts of violence or intimidation,” he noted.

The CIA held Mohammed in a secret prison for years and acknowledged interrogating
him with methods that included the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding.

Some of the victims’ relatives also said they thought the trials should be
held in a regular court, open to the public and using only “evidence that’s
above reproach.”

“This is not about revenge, it’s about justice,” said Valerie Lucznikowska,
a New Yorker whose nephew Adam Arias died in the World Trade Center.

“I don’t want it to be a lynching. I’m concerned that people like Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, we won’t be able to find them guilty because of what we’ve
done with them. It’s a horrible conundrum.”

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

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