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9/11 cases: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed speaks in court, lectures judge

The accused 9/11 mastermind had skipped pretrial hearings at Guantánamo, but he made a surprise showing Wednesday afternoon and addressed the court. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had some counsel for the judge.

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, (2nd r.) the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, addresses the judge during the third day of pre-trial hearings in the 9/11 war crimes prosecution as depicted in this Pentagon-approved courtroom sketch at the US Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, October 17.

Janet Hamlin/Reuters

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In a surprise move on Wednesday, accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed urged the military judge presiding over his case at Guantánamo not to be swayed by broad claims of US national security invoked by prosecutors, nor by sympathy for the nearly 3,000 victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“The government at the end of the argument gave you advice,” Mr. Mohammed said while seated at the defense table and speaking through an Arabic interpreter. “I would like to give you similar advice.” he said. “Any decision you take, you have to keep in mind that the government is using the definition of national security as it chooses.”

His comments came on the third of five days of hearings this week to resolve a wide range of pretrial issues – including whether the government should be permitted to suppress any potential statements by Mohammed and his codefendants about their alleged torture while in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The request from Mohammed to speak in open court was unusual. Equally unusual was Judge James Pohl’s decision to let him address the court.

Mohammed spoke for about five minutes. He told the court that while the US government mourns the loss of 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks, the US government had also killed “millions” in the name of protecting national security.

“Every dictator can put this definition on as a shoe that he chooses to step on every person in this world, every law, and every constitution,” Mohammed said. 

“With this definition many can invade the rule and also go against it,” he said. “Many can kill people under the name of national security, and torture people under the name of national security, and detain children under the name of national security."

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