U.S. NAVAL BASE GUANTÁNAMO BAY, CUBA—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow alleged al-Qaeda travelers—Walid Muhammad Salih Bin Attash, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam Al Hawsawi—appeared in high spirits Tuesday.
The men accused of committing the September 11 attacks appeared to joke around and converse as proceedings were ongoing here at Guantánamo war court. Cameras are not allowed in the courtroom, and all electronics are strictly forbidden, for security and procedural reasons.
Mohammed, physically, could be perceived as if he was still an al-Qaeda commander in the wilds of Pakistan. Sporting a dyed-orange beard, KSM wore a red turban, a white-and-black checkered keffiyeh shawl, and a camouflage vest.
For eight hours, defense attorneys for the “9/11 five”—the men charged with committing the heinous acts on 9/11—railed that their clients’ Islamic cultural norms had been “violated” due to the fact they had been touched by female guards at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp 7. For hours on end, the defense team cross-examined a female witness who ran Camp 7 (known only as Lt. Col. for security reasons), discussing how their clients’ Islamic beliefs were supposedly trampled upon.
Islam does not allow for contact between unmarried females and males, argued David Nevin, one of the lawyers for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. And Islam also does not allow for women to make eye contact with men, he said. The assertion moved forward argued these tenets are universal in the Arab world and were potentially violated while detainees were in custody at the detention camp.
The issue with female guards established notoriety in November 2014, when Navy Capt J.K. Watts said the commission has “the duty of being mindful of religious and cultural differences.” Another Guantánamo judge, James Pohl issued in January that female guards were prohibited from transporting the detainees on grounds that it would violate the detainees’ beliefs.
The female members of the defense team were happy to submit to these Islamic customs, sporting outfits that ranged from a hijab to a full burqa. Yet even after their full capitulation, one of the jihadis requested that his female representative be kicked off his defense team.
Lots of taxpayer money was spent and none of the issues relevant to the charges against the alleged terrorists were brought up during pretrial proceedings here at Guantánamo war court. More of the same is expected Wednesday, as the defense and prosecution will battle it out over the female guards issue, while the men charged with committing the worst terrorist attacks in American history remain unsentenced, more than 14 years after the attacks.