GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - A pretrial hearing in the Sept. 11 war crimes case started Thursday with one of the defendants complaining about searches of his cell by guards at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Walid bin Attash stood up to complain about the searches and sought to address the court but was repeatedly interrupted and told to sit down by the military judge, Army Col. James Pohl.
"In the name of God, there is an important thing for you," he began as Pohl cut him off and told his lawyers that the only way he could address the court would be to testify from the witness stand.
"I'm not here to testify," replied bin Attash, who has a prosthetic leg because he lost a limb fighting in Afghanistan.
Pohl, who has allowed the defendants to speak in court in previous court appearances, halted him with a stern warning to defense attorney Cheryl Bormann.
Bormann told the judge that her client was upset because guards had searched his cell while he was in court and confiscated legal papers related to his case. A prison official later testified that papers and books were taken from four of the defendants over the past week during security inspections, though some of the material was later deemed permissible and would be returned.
Bin Attash, a native of Yemen who grew up in Saudi Arabia and is accused of providing logistical assistance to the Sept. 11 hijackers, sat down as members of his defense team appeared to calm him down.
The outburst came on the final day of four days of pretrial motions. The five defendants are being tried by a military commission, a tribunal for wartime offenses. They face charges that include murder and terrorism for their alleged roles planning and aiding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and could get the death penalty if convicted. Their trial is likely more than a year away as the defense and prosecutors duel over a wide range of preliminary legal issues.
The May 2012 arraignment in the long-stalled war crimes case was an unruly 13-hour spectacle, drawn out as the defendants refused to use the court translation system, ignored the judge and stood up to pray in court.
The defendants sat out portions of this week's session but, when they were in court, had remained largely silent. The lead defendant, self-professed terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, has sat quietly at his defense table.