9/11 trials: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed speaks of martyrdom and torture

5.6.08

As the 9/11 trials begin (the arraignment of five Guantánamo prisoners in connection with their alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks) and 60 reporters at Guantánamo tumble over each other in an attempt to get the story out first, ABC News reports that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who said in his tribunal at Guantánamo last year that he was “responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z,” spoke publicly for the first time since his capture in Pakistan in March 2003.

ABC News stated that Mohammed and his four co-defendants — Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Walid bin Attash — walked into the courtroom shortly after 9 am, wearing turbans and white robes, and explained that when the judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, asked Mohammed if he understood that he could get the death penalty if convicted, he replied, “I wish to be martyred.”

Walid bin Attash and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (centre) and Walid bin Attash during their arraignment on June 5, 2008, as drawn by Janet Hamlin.

It was also reported that, when Col. Kohlmann asked Mohammed if he agreed to be represented by his lawyers, he “broke into a religious chant.” When Col. Kohlmann interrupted, telling Mohammed that “he was not responding to the question and told him he was told what he can and can’t say,” Mohammed replied, “I know I can’t cross that red line. I know I can’t talk about torture.”

Although the report continued by questioning whether Mohammed will accept his lawyers — noting that he said that he “can’t accept any lawyer not using Sharia law,” and added, “God is the real judge” — it is his shrewd mention of torture (in the context of not mentioning torture) that leaps out of this first report from the arraignment, even if most news outlets will probably focus on his stated desire for martyrdom.

Although Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of the CIA, publicly conceded in February that Mohammed was one of three prisoners subjected to waterboarding (an ancient torture technique that involves controlled drowning) in secret CIA custody, the administration is, in general, so anxious to conceal all mention of torture that it recently admitted that, in the last year, “clean teams” of FBI agents had reinterrogated prisoners who had previously been subjected to the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the official euphemism for torture), in an attempt to whitewash all mention of torture from post-9/11 history.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s comments — which can be added to an ever-growing catalogue of torture allegations made by prisoners facing trial by Military Commission — seem to indicate how futile this wish will be.

Andy is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

3 Responses

  1. 9/11 trials: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed speaks of martyrdom and torture | freedetainees.org says...

    […] Andy Worthington […]

  2. Linda G. Richard says...

    Hi Andy, excellent article! I have one question though, he says he can’t cross that line and mention torture? Why?

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Linda,
    I believe that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was making a point about the secrecy surrounding the use of torture by US forces. He had either been told not to mention that he was tortured, or knew that the last thing the authorities wanted was for him to talk about it — which was why he did it, of course.
    All the best, and thanks for your continuing support.
    Andy

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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