All five of the accused refused to show for court today after being given the option at around 5:30 a.m. to exercise their right to be present for proceedings or sign a document indicating that they didn’t want to be in court.
Mohammed, who earned a mechanical engineering degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the 1980s, was the only one of the five who requested to sign the English-language form, which was also offered in Arabic.
Mohammed spoke Arabic in court yesterday when asked by the judge if he understood his right to be present or absent. He is fluent in Arabic, English, Urdu, and Baluchi.
Lt. Commander Kevin Bogucki, the military lawyer representing bin al Shibh, compared what the prosecution was offering for visitation to the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland — where everyone’s loaded into a boat and told by the tour guide that the animatronic animals on the shores are real in the tightly controlled trip.
“From that limited perspective from which you cannot leave you might think it’s an elephant in the jungle,” Bogucki said, adding that their fact-finding mission in Camp 7 could “explain why our clients are behaving the way the government says they’re behaving.”
“The limited scope of the inspection the government is proposing would be like staying on the boat in the Jungle Cruise,” he said.
Nevin picked up this theme. “We can learn a lot by a 48 hours of continuous presence, more than we could by floating by the island,” he said.
Army Major Robert McGovern, speaking for the prosecution, said their offer is “incredibly reasonable” given the security considerations. He also noted that the evidence they’ll offer in trying the murders of 2,976 won’t include anything having to do with confinement as an aggravating factor.
“We don’t think it is appropriate to be able to just walk around,” McGovern said of the site.
Judge Pohl picked the brains of the defense attorneys about what kind of overnight visit they were envisioning: sleeping on a cot next to their client, bunking in an adjoining cell?
Ruiz said adjoining cells with a physical barrier to stem the security concerns of the government, but allowing free access to communicate with the terror suspects, should be sufficient.
“I don’t see the necessity of protecting us from our clients,” said Nevin, quickly adding that he only spoke for his client, Mohammed — who confessed not only to plotting multiple attacks but to beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Mohammed and his co-defendants have hearings Jan. 31 and Feb. 11-14. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, alleged mastermind of the USS Cole attack, is scheduled to appear in court from Feb. 4-7.
These cases are the ones before the Guantanamo tribunal that carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Stay tuned to PJM for ongoing coverage of the Guantanamo tribunals. Yesterday: Suspect complains there’s no motivation to come to court