Sept. 11 Defendants Not Required to Attend, Judge Says

Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks can decide not to attend court hearings, a military judge ruled today.

“The accused can, prior to assembly, choose voluntarily not to attend a session” provided that “he understands his right to be present and what his actions may or may not mean,” said Army Colonel James Pohl, the judge who is conducting hearings in the case at the U.S. naval station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Pohl said later that the ruling applies for the hearings set to run for five days this week, and that he hasn’t decided whether to review it for future sessions.

Prosecutors had filed a motion seeking to require the attendance of defendants in all court proceedings with limited exceptions. Defense lawyers have suggested some of the accused may not wish to come to the hearings, without specifying what their clients desire.

The ruling means the public may not see Mohammed and the four other accused often in the coming weeks and months as the case proceeds. A trial is still a year or more away.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Lerman in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba at dlerman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net