Guantanamo Bay Naval Base: A pretrial hearing in the September 11 war crimes case started on Thursday with an angry outburst from one of the defendants complaining about searches of his cell by guards at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Walid bin Attash stood up to complain about the searches and sought to address the court but was repeatedly interrupted and told to sit down by the military judge, Army Col James Pohl.
"In the name of God, there is an important thing for you," he began as Pohl cut him off and told his lawyers that the only way he could address the court would be to testify from the witness stand.
"I`m not here to testify," replied bin Attash, who wore a flowing white robe and was unshackled.
Pohl, who has allowed the defendants to speak in court in previous court appearances, halted him with a stern warning to defense attorney Cheryl Bormann. "I`m going to tell your client one more time to sit down or he will be taken out of the courtroom."
Bormann told the judge that her client was upset because guards had searched his cell while he was in court and confiscated legal papers related to his case. Defense attorney James Harrington, who represents defendant Ramzi Binalshibh, said the same thing also happened to his client. The chief prosecutor, Army Brig Gen Mark Martins, said officials were looking into the incident to find out what happened and see if prison staff had done anything wrong.
Bin Attash, a native of Yemen who grew up in Saudi Arabia and is accused of providing logistical assistance to the September 11 hijackers, sat down as members of his defence team appeared to calm him down.
The outburst came on the final day of four days of pretrial motions hearings. The five defendants are being tried by a tribunal for wartime offenses known as a military commission.
They face charges that include murder and terrorism for their alleged roles planning and aiding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and could get the death penalty if convicted. Their trial is likely more than a year away as the defense and prosecutors duel over a wide range of preliminary legal issues.