By Peter Finn, The Washington Times
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba â€” Wearing a white turban and sporting a long gray beard streaked with red henna, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the man who boasts of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was arraigned in a military commission here Saturday on charges that could one distant day lead to the death penalty.
A case that has stuttered across two administrations â€” beginning, leaving and returning to the military over the past four years â€” opened with clear signals from Mohammed, his four co-defendants, and their military and civilian defense lawyers, that they will make every effort to disrupt and delay the proceeding.
The five men are charged with murder in violation of the law of war, hijacking and terrorism, among other charges. All of them deferred entering a plea. The case is likely to be the most public and contested examination of the reformed military commissions that were backed by the Obama administration and passed by Congress in 2009.
The normally loquacious Mohammed refused to speak publicly throughout Saturdayâ€™s hearing, a stance that was largely adopted by all the other defendants, who tend to follow his lead. Mohammed sits at the top defense table in the spacious courtroom and throughout the hearing he whispered messages to his comrades, and they chatted and joked with one another during a short recess.
During the hearing, Mohammed, a 47-year-old Pakistani national, often kept his chin in his chest, and refused to speak to the military judge, Army Col. James Pohl, about whether he wanted to keep their military and civilian counsel or represent himself. The others followed suit.
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