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Prayer rugs and legal moves in trial of 9/11 defendants

Defendants in the trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others insisted on having their full charges read, an unusual move. Yet most seemed not to pay attention, then took a break for prayer.

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It is called the reading of the charges.

That’s the point during an arraignment when the judge routinely announces that the defendant has a right to have the charges he or she is facing read out loud in open court.

It is also the point when the defendant’s attorney routinely responds that the defense will waive the reading of the charges.

The process takes about 15 seconds, 20 max.

Usually.

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On Saturday, at one of the most important arraignments in recent American history, that simple routine evaporated when lawyers for two of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s co-defendants in the 9/11 military commission case announced that their clients wished to actually hear the charges read in open court.

This announcement came after a long day of posturing and arguments, mostly by defense lawyers. The judge in the case, US Army Col. James Pohl, appeared completely uninterested in adding several more hours to a difficult day.

“Given the hour, I will defer reading of the charges,” Judge Pohl said. “If the defense objects, the objection is overruled.”

The judge noted that the charge sheet was 87 pages long “and I fail to see how the accused suffers any prejudice by delaying this to the next meeting.” He said he would hear pretrial motions the week of June 12 and that the charges would be read then.

Air Force Capt. Michael Schwartz objected on behalf of his client Walid Bin Attash. He said his client wanted the charges read before June 12. Mr. Schwartz suggested Sunday morning.

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