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September 11 Suspects Request Guilty Plea During Pre-Trial Hearing

By VOA News
08 December 2008

A U.S. military judge at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says the five men accused of plotting the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks have asked to plead guilty.

Judge Stephen Henley read a note from the defendants, including alleged September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, asking for "an immediate hearing session to announce our confessions."

The surprise announcement came at the start of a pre-trial hearing Monday attended by family members of five victims of the attacks.

Following the announcement the judge then questioned the defendants individually, to confirm that their request meant they wished to withdraw all pending motions, and enter guilty pleas.

Mohammed has said he wants to be executed so he can become a martyr, but he has previously asked for materials for his defense. He and his co-defendants are representing themselves.

The accused are appearing before army Colonel Stephen Henley, who was assigned to the case after the original judge, Ralph Kohlmann, stepped down. Kohlmann said he would not be able to preside over the trial because it would probably still be going on at the time of his planned retirement in April.

The family members in the courtroom were chosen by the Pentagon from more than 100 applicants. They sit in a viewing gallery at the back of the court, separated from the defendants, whom they will not be allowed to address.

President-elect Barack Obama has said he wants to close the controversial Guantanamo facility after taking office next month, but in the meantime the Pentagon says the trials will continue as planned.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.



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