Alleged 9-11 conspirators will confess and plead guilty

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

In proceedings by the Guantanamo military commission at the United States Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on Monday, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators stated that they will confess and plead guilty to the charges they face in the planning and execution of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed shortly after his capture in 2002.

The four that stand accused with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind, are Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ammar al-Baluchi (aka Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali), and Walid bin 'Attash. They have all been at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for at least two years.

The defendants announced their intentions in court, with Stephen R. Henley reading their filing.

The judge asked if they would plead guilty. "Yes," said Mohammed, "we don't want to waste time." He also said it was "our earnest desire" to admit guilt and said he wanted the proceeding to end because "I do not trust Americans."

Mohammed also expressed displeasure that it took over a month for the court to address his filing requesting "an immediate hearing session to announce our confessions." In court he said, "I don't know — are the military commissions using carrier pigeons or what?" speaking in English.

New York City on September 11, 2001.

The judge would not accept pleas from Binalshibh and al-Hawsawi, ordering mental competency hearings for the two.

Al Hawsawi objected and told the judge he decided to plead guilty "with all my complete mental capacity and voluntarily."

However, Mohammed told the judge they would not enter their pleas without Binalshibh and al-Hawsawi, "We want everyone to plead together."

"Our plea was based on joint strategy," al-Baluchi told the judge. "All of these decisions are undertaken by us without any pressure or influence by Khalid Sheikh [Mohammed]," he further said. "What was said or will be said by Khalid Sheikh will be repeated by us, also."

After the competency evaluations, another hearing will be held, where the five may enter their pleas. Presiding Officer Stephen Henley asked for briefs from prosecutors on whether the military commission can "accept a plea of guilty to a capital offense."

Monday's hearing was unusual in that, in addition to the press, the families of five 9/11 victims were also in attendance.