World and Nation

Guantanamo defense lawyers seek 48-hour visits

FORT MEADE, Md. — Defense attorneys for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other accused accomplices in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, asked a military tribunal judge in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Tuesday to let them stay in prison with their clients for 48-hour periods every six months. But military prosecutors called that request unreasonable, saying the defense should be allowed to visit just once for two hours.

“The idea that they are entitled to walk around for 48 hours in their clients’ shoes is unsupported by anything,” said Maj. Robert McGovern of the Army, a member of the prosecution team.

The requested visit was one of several issues raised at a pretrial motions hearing that focused on information that could become a central focus if the defendants are eventually convicted and they face the possibility of a death sentence. A closed-circuit video feed of the hearing was shown to reporters at the base and at Fort Meade. While all five defendants were present at a hearing Monday, none chose to attend court Tuesday.

Defense attorneys urged the judge overseeing the case, Col. James Pohl of the Army, to allow their clients lengthy, repeated visits with fewer restrictions on whom they could speak with and on the notes and diagrams they can take so that they can document their clients’ lives and behavior in custody. Such information, the lawyers said, could help develop mitigating information against execution.

“If we get to sentencing, we need to articulate mitigating factors, particularly the defendants’ adaptions to conditions of confinement,” said Cmdr. Walter Ruiz of the Navy, a defense lawyer for one of the detainees, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi.

Ruiz acknowledged security and logistical concerns and suggested that it would be acceptable to be in an adjoining cell, but said the defense needed to see “sleeping cycles and what goes on at night.” The defense is also seeking correspondence with the Red Cross about their clients’ confinement issues.

Pohl appeared sympathetic to the defense, pressing McGovern skeptically about the necessity of the government’s proposed limitations on the visit, but did not rule Tuesday.

Pohl also put off consideration of another high-profile motion: a defense request that he order the government to preserve evidence at any CIA “black site” prison where their clients were held and interrogated for several years.