FORT MEADE, Md. — Today’s pretrial hearings in the murder case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators saw all five defendants refuse to come to court and prefer to stay in their cells.
And in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom, defense attorneys were arguing that they should have the right to join their clients.
Lawyers for Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi are petitioning for the right to spend 48-hour visits with the accused terrorists.
“You want to sleep with your client?” Judge James Pohl asked with a mix of surprise and bemusement.
“No, I don’t want to sleep with my client,” said Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, representing al-Hawsawi, explaining that the attorneys want to go where they’ve never gone before: into Camp 7, the secretive, segregated, high-security area at Gitmo where the defendants in this capital case are held — each facing 2,976 counts of murder in the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.
Defense attorneys say they want the “best understanding of living conditions” of their clients, including “stressors,” daily activities, lighting conditions, and so forth, said Ruiz. “The whole point is we don’t know,” he said, as they’ve never had access to this living facility.
“Do you believe the presence of defense counsel might change the way the facility operates?” the judge asked, stressing he wasn’t trying to be flippant but noting that “the mere presence of defense counsel naturally would distort” how day-to-day operations are carried out.
Prosecutors have offered a short controlled-access visit with strict security guidelines for the mix of military and civilian attorneys representing the accused.
But one of those civilian attorneys, Boise lawyer David Nevin, said the primary reason for the request is to understand and document “exactly what life in these camps is like.”