EDITORIAL: The courtroom jihad

Islamist antics make a mockery of justice in 9/11 trial

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Five planners of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were arraigned on Sunday before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. The 13-hour proceeding was a theatrical farce, which unfortunately gives a taste of things to come.

The five terrorist defendants - Ramzi Binalshibh, Walid bin Attash, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, Ammar al-Baluchi and reputed mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - face 2,976 counts of terrorism and capital murder for their role in the 9/11 attacks. The arraignment was the first step in a lengthy process of trial and appeal that is likely to stretch for years, if the arraignment is any indication.

The defense team made full use of every procedural delaying tactic available. The defendants ignored instructions from the judge, would not listen to translations of the proceedings over headphones, slept, passed around magazines and were generally disrespectful. Cheryl Bormann, counsel for Walid bin Attash, appeared in a black hijab even though she is not a Muslim. She requested that the judge order other women present, particularly on the prosecution team, to dress in similar attire. She said she was concerned the defendants might have to avert their eyes “for fear of committing a sin under their faith.”

The defense also complained that its clients were not allowed to wear their garb of choice, though Mohammed appeared resplendent in white, wearing a turban and with his flowing beard streaked with red henna, a powder intended to make hair silkier. Those who denounced the Guantanamo detainee facility as the “American gulag” might research whether Stalin supplied Soviet prisoners with hair care products.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, the chief prosecutor, said, “Everyone is frustrated by the delay.” But these antics are all part of courtroom jihad tactics. The terrorists are simply carrying on their struggle by other means. The excessive emphasis on procedure is due to concerns that the process appear fair, especially to the Muslim audience in the Middle East. The defendants were given regular prayer breaks, for example, and engaged in other impromptu religious outbursts that the judge seemed reluctant to quash. The Obama administration seems to think bowing to these customs will insulate America from charges that it is somehow hostile to Islam. If anything, courtroom capitulation gives heart to those Islamists who really do see the conflict as a religious war, and it tells them they are winning.

No matter how far U.S. officials bend over backward, the process will never be seen as fair. The defendants have been held for more than a decade. Much of the evidence against them is either based on classified intelligence or extracted by interrogation techniques that President Obama loudly announced constituted torture.

Some have called this the Nuremburg trial of our times, but there is little to compare the two. The Nazi prosecutions were swift, public and based on unconcealed evidence. Had those trials been conducted by contemporary rules, the defendants would have been allowed to appear in full Nazi regalia, pause the proceedings for Hitlerian rituals and move that Jews should be removed from the courtroom because their presence made the accused uncomfortable. That may sound farcical, but it’s no more ridiculous than the charade grinding forward at Guantanamo.

The Washington Times

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