GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - Detainees accused of planning the 9.11
attacks, the USS Cole bombing and the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya
and Tanzania are expected to face hearings within three months to determine
whether they are enemy combatants.
Fourteen "high-value" detainees - including Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed - will be invited to appear at the hearings at the Guantanamo Bay
detention center, said Navy Capt. Phil Waddingham, director of the Office for
the Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, is
seen shortly after his capture during a raid in Pakistan Saturday March 1,
2003 in this photo obtained by the Associated Press.
Mohammed was believed to be the No. 3 al-Qaida leader before he was captured
in Pakistan in 2003. If he appears, it would mark the first time he has been
seen in public since his capture.
Detainees can refuse to appear but the tribunals will be held regardless,
Waddingham told reporters Wednesday.
Ramzi Binalshibh, who is accused of helping plan the Sept. 11 attacks and
being a lead operative for a foiled plot to crash aircraft into London's
Heathrow Airport, is also among the 14 captives. Abu Zubaydah, who was believed
to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells before he was
captured in Pakistan in 2002, is also among the 14.
The 14 terrorism suspects are undergoing "orientation" and not being
interrogated, Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock told a group of reporters at the
The detainees were recently transferred from CIA custody to this isolated US
Navy base in southeast Cuba, President Bush announced on Sept. 6.
Army Brig. Gen. Edward A. Leacock, the deputy commander of Guantanamo, said
the new detainees are being treated humanely. Authorities have said they are
being held in a maximum-security area but Leacock refused to say precisely
"They're all adapting well to their new environment," Leacock said in an
interview with reporters here, adding that they're fed three times a day, have
recreational opportunities and have opportunities to pray five times daily.
The detainees are being checked for medical and dental problems and have been
given materials to write letters, which will be given to the Red Cross for
mailing after they are censored by the military, Leacock said.
The Red Cross announced in Geneva Wednesday that its representatives will
travel to Guantanamo to visit the 14 detainees next week.
Waddingham told reporters visiting Guantanamo that the Combatant Status
Review Tribunals for Mohammed and the other 13 detainees would be open to the
press, he said.
"I am expecting the CSRTs to begin in two or three months," he said.
All of roughly 450 detainees at Guantanamo, who began arriving in 2002, have
gone through status review tribunals. The tribunals for the 14 new arrivals
almost certainly will be held using the same procedures, Waddingham said.
The tribunals are conducted by a three-member military panel, which examines
evidence against a detainee, can speak to witnesses, and determines if the
detainee is an enemy combatant and should be held. The detainee is represented
by U.S. military counsel.
Those judged not to be enemy combatants are generally transferred out of
Guantanamo to their home countries. Those determined to be enemy combatants stay
locked up here. They then face annual Administrative Review Boards that examine
whether they still pose a threat to the United States or have intelligence
Congress and the Bush administration are currently working on guidelines on
how detainees should be interrogated and put on trial. Ten Guantanamo detainees
have been charged with crimes but their military trials were put on hold after
the Supreme Court last June ruled that the tribunals were illegal - partly
because the Bush administration had set them up without Congressional approval.
Craddock, who oversees US military operations in Latin America and the
Caribbean as commander of US Southern Command, estimated that the 14 would be
made available to the Red Cross around Oct. 1, but not before they completed
In Geneva on Wednesday, the chief spokesman for the ICRC, Antonella Notari,
said officials plan to arrive September 25 for a scheduled two-week visit to
Guantanamo. The ICRC is the only neutral agency with full access to Guantanamo