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First Observation of Military Commission Proceedings

This morning was the first opportunity to attend the hearings in the 9/11 case. Proceedings started slightly later for the public gallery due to a short ex parte issue being discussed.

Upon entering the gallery, the media and NGO representatives were sat to the left of the room and victims and family members were seated separately to the right. Much like the international courts and tribunals, soundproof glass windows separated the gallery from the courtroom but unlike the international courts there was a 40 second delay on the audio from the courtroom, this is in case any classified information is inadvertently released.

The participants in the gallery were reminded of the rules and regulations and the behaviour which was expected in the gallery and to be respectful.

Upon the Judge entering the courtroom and asking for the parties to introduce themselves, there were two slight interruptions, firstly as the six flags stood behind the Bench fell over and secondly due to technical issues with the audio. Upon resumption, the judge made enquires regarding prayer times so he could plan the schedule accordingly.

Rita Radostitz, a lawyer for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, argued that the defence has a right to investigate and call witnesses but this has been limited since a decision in 2017 which prohibited the defence from contacting any witnesses regarding the interrogations as the government argued that this was a national security risk. The defence argued that this could affect the accused’s right to a fair trial and requested that several witnesses be permitted to be called on issues including capital penalty cases and legal ethics.

After a short recess, court was back in session briefly before Mr. Harrington, defence counsel for Mr. Ramzi bin al-Shibh, informed the judge that his client had medical issues and needed to have a bathroom break. Court was in recess for a short time again.

Once resumed, Mr. Connell, the lawyer for Mr. Al-Baluchi, proceeded to address issues related to the production of emails of FBI witnesses who have testified, and who will testify, and which may be relevant. A discussion took place between the judge and Mr. Connell with various US cases being cited. It appeared that the main issue was whether emails could amount to statements made by an individual and therefore should be disclosed to the defence.

Before the recess for lunch, Mr. Harrington, explained that his client was very unwell and needed to be examined by a doctor. It was decided that the litigation regarding the emails would continue tomorrow morning as a closed session was scheduled for this afternoon. The court went into recess for lunch and the participants in the public gallery left the courtroom for the day.

A more detailed report on the hearings will will be published in the coming weeks after the current two weeks of hearings have finished.


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