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Guantánamo trial boycott? Judge says defendants don't have to attend (+video)

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants in the 9/11 conspiracy trial at Guantánamo Bay cannot be forced to attend future sessions of the trial or pretrial hearings, a military judge said.

Guantanamo trial: Defendents can stay in cells
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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants in the 9/11 terror conspiracy trial are not required to attend future sessions of the special military commission at Guantánamo, a military judge ruled Monday, opening the door to a potential boycott of the proceedings.

The judge, US Army Col. James Pohl, said he would allow the accused 9/11 conspirators to choose not to attend future legal proceedings in the case.

But the judge stressed that the alleged Al Qaeda members must sign daily written waivers of their right to attend the commission sessions indicating that they fully understand the potential negative consequences of their absence from a terror trial that carries a potential death sentence.

“The accused can … choose to voluntarily not attend a session of the commission as long as he understands his right to be present and what his actions may or may not mean,” Pohl said.

When asked if he understood the negative consequences of any decision to avoid his trial and any resulting failure to consult closely with his defense counsel, Mr. Mohammed said he understood the risks.

“But I don’t think there is any justice in this court,” he added.

The directive takes effect Tuesday morning when each of the five defendants will be asked whether he wishes to attend the day’s legal proceeding.

The action came on the first of five days of hearings to examine 25 pretrial motions that must be resolved before the five defendants may be put on trial before a special military commission at the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Among pending issues is how classified information is to be protected during the trial, whether the defendants will be allowed to testify about their alleged torture while in CIA custody, to what extent the trial will comport with constitutional protections, and whether repeated and prominent public statements by Presidents Bush and Obama have made it impossible for the defendants to receive a fair trial.

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