Guantanamo arraignment begins for five detainees accused of plotting 9/11 terror attacks

AP Photo-FileKhalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, is seen shortly after his capture during a raid in Pakistan in this file photo from March 1, 2003 in this file photo obtained by the Associated Press. Mohammed, who could face the death penalty for his role in the Sept. 11 attacks, has been peppering his military lawyer with questions in advance of his war crimes trial at Guantanamo, the attorney tells The Associated Press.

AP Photo-FileKhalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, is seen shortly after his capture during a raid in Pakistan in this file photo from March 1, 2003 in this file photo obtained by the Associated Press. Mohammed, who could face the death penalty for his role in the Sept. 11 attacks, has been peppering his military lawyer with questions in advance of his war crimes trial at Guantanamo, the attorney tells The Associated Press.

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba " The accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and four alleged confederates faced a military judge Thursday in their long-awaited first appearance before a war-crimes tribunal.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other alleged al-Qaida figures sat at defense tables alongside their lawyers before the judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann.

All five wore cream-colored clothing and turbans, in contrast to the disheveled hair and T-shirt Mohammed wore when he was captured in Pakistan in 2003. Mohammed was later held in CIA custody at secret sites and transferred to the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2006.

Journalists were allowed to see the proceedings on closed-circuit TV in a nearby press room. Other observers including Fang A. Wong, a senior member of the American Legion, filed into the tightly guarded courthouse to watch the arraignment.

"I'm from the New York area, and I have been waiting for this for a long time," Wong said as he waited to be searched by soldiers before entering the court complex.

The arraignment of the five detainees, coming seven years after the terror attacks, begins the highest-profile test yet of the controversial tribunal system, which is being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court. All five face the death penalty if convicted of war crimes including murder, conspiracy, attacking civilians and terrorism.

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