GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — One of the five 9/11 co-conspirators on trial here delivered a lengthy screed against U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday and said he and four other defendants are being denied a fair trial.
"The government does not want us to hear or understand, the prosecution does not want us to hear or understand or say anything. And they don't even want our attorneys to do anything," Walid Bin Attash said while addressing Army Judge Col. James Pohl.
Clad in a traditional Kurta long shirt, a military camouflage vest and a black and white keffiyeh wrapped around his head, the Saudi national and accused mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen continued his rant over the court's objections.
At one point, Pohl told Bin Attash to "please stop" his tirade, but to no avail.
"I understand my rights very well. But I want [the court] to understand the situation that we are in," Bin Attash said in Arabic. His comments were translated through a court-appointed interpreter who was added during Monday's pretrial hearing at the U.S. military's Expeditionary Legal Center at Camp Liberty in Guantanamo.
Bin Attash's comments came when he, along with accused 9/11 plotters Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi were asked by Pohl to acknowledge their right to be present or absent during the tribunal's proceedings.
All defendants, except for Bin Attash, responded to Pohl's request with one-word answers.
When asked if he understood his rights to appear before the tribunal, Bin Attash said he and his fellow defendants "don't have any motivating factors that would invite us to come to the court," due to what he said are efforts by the military to subvert their defense teams.
"We have been dealing with our attorneys for about a year and a half and we have not been able to build any trust with them. Our attorneys are bound and we are bound also," he said.
Earlier during Monday's hearing, Bin Attash's lead defense attorney, Cheryl Bormann, told Pohl she had been denied access to her client before the hearing began.
"There are many things that the court could do to help us, help motivate us to attend the court, but there is nothing that would motivate us to come," he added.
Military tribunal officials have applied a system of restrictions and protocols on the 9/11 detainees "that seems to do everything possible" to interfere with attorney-client privilege, Bormann told reporters after Monday's hearing.
Aside from being denied access to Bin Attash before the hearing, Bormann explained that due to U.S. regulations, she is only allowed to confer with her client in person or in writing. Phone calls are forbidden between 9/11 defendants and their attorneys.
Bormann also noted that any correspondence between Bin Attash and any members of the defense team is interpreted from Arabic to English, as well as screened for content, by U.S. military officials at Guantanamo Bay. Bormann said the screening of letters and documents is a violation of attorney-client privilege.
"That certainly didn't seem fair and [certainly] didn't seem transparent," she said.