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Guantanamo military commission hearings for alleged 9/11 conspirators proceed

[JURIST] Pre-trial hearings for five men detained at Guantanamo Bay as 9/11 conspirators [JURIST news archives] proceeded on Monday despite the Pentagon's chief prosecutor's earlier request [JURIST report] that they be delayed. Army Colonel Stephen Henley [DOD biography, PDF], the presiding judge, questioned Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Wallid bin Attash, Mustapha al-Hawsawi and Ramzi bin al-Shibh [JURIST news archives] regarding their requests to dismiss their appointed lawyers and plead guilty to murder charges. The men had previously asked to be able to enter guilty pleas, but postponed the offer [JURIST reports] after Henley ruled that competency hearings were required [CNN report] for al-Hawsawi and al-Shibh. Henley also heard arguments Monday from defense lawyers seeking to establish the procedural posture of the cases after Susan Crawford [official profile, PDF; JURIST news archive], the tribunal's convening authority, dismissed and re-filed [Reuters report] the charges against the men earlier this month. The defense argued that the renewal of the charges should require the tribunal to begin the trials anew. Henley rejected this argument, saying instead that it was a procedural move aimed at replacing potential jurors who had been reassigned, provided an affidavit from Crawford, outlining her intent, in support of the decision.

Henley was assigned to the Mohammed trial last month, following the retirement [JURIST reports] of Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann [JURIST news archive]. The Pentagon approved death penalty charges against Mohammed and the four other suspects in May, and they were arraigned [JURIST reports] in June. In February, CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly acknowledged [JURIST report] that Mohammed had been subjected to waterboarding [JURIST news archive] during interrogation. Last week, Crawford said in an interview with the Washington Post that torture tactics were used [article text; JURIST report] in the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani [JURIST news archive], a suspect held at Guantanamo under allegations of connections to the 9/11 attacks. Crawford made the statement after nearly two years of reviewing Guantanamo Bay practices as well as the strength of legal cases against detainees. US House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) [official websites] published a report [text, PDF] last week urging Obama to open a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into the alleged abuses that have occurred at Guantanamo Bay throughout the Bush administration.

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