In a sickening lecture to the crew of lawyers and victim’s family members who were in the Guantanamo Bay court, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks said the U.S. government had killed many more people in the name of national security than he is accused of killing.
Khalid Sheik Mohammed addressed the court on Wednesday during a pretrial hearing where he placed blame on the American government rather than accepting any ounce of guilt following his role in the terrorist attacks that killed 2,976 people.
‘When the government feels sad for the death or the killing of 3,000 people who were killed on September 11, we also should feel sorry that the American government that was represented by (the chief prosecutor) and others have killed thousands of people, millions,’ said Mohammed, who wore a military-style camouflage vest to the courtroom.
His lawyers said previously that Mohammed considers himself a prisoner of war and wanted to wear clothing similar to what he wore as a mujahedeen fighter
The judge in his terrorism trial ruled Tuesday he could wear camouflage. The prison commander had previously forbidden it, but that was overturned by the judge, sparking outrage from victims families who saw the move as a way for him to send a message to fellow extremists.
He accused the United States of using an elastic definition of national security, comparable to the way dictators bend the law to justify their acts.
‘Many can kill people under the name of national security, and to torture people under the name of national security, and to detain children under the name of national security, underage children,’ he said in Arabic through an English interpreter.
‘The president can take someone and throw him into the sea under the name of national security and so he can also legislate the assassinations under the name of national security for the American citizens,’ he said in an apparent reference to the U.S. killing and burial at sea of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the U.S. use of drone strikes against U.S. citizens accused of conspiring with al Qaeda.
He advised the court against ‘getting affected by the crocodile tears’ and said, ‘Your blood is not made out of gold and ours is made out of water. We are all human beings.’
The judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, gave Mohammed permission to speak and did not interrupt him, but said he would not hear any further personal comments from the defendants.
Mohammed’s lecture to the court came during a week of pretrial hearings at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba for him and four other captives accused of recruiting, funding and training the hijackers.
Under the Geneva Conventions, one of the things that separate soldiers from unlawful belligerents is the wearing of uniforms that distinguish them from civilians. Soldiers must also follow a clear command structure, carry arms openly and adhere to the laws of war.
Mohammed’s defense attorney, Army Captain Jason Wright had argued that forbidding Mohammed from wearing military-style garb could undermine his presumption of innocence in the war crimes tribunal.
‘They are trying to use their situation to rally jihadists around the world and that puts American troops in danger,’ said Debra Burlingame, the sister of one of the pilots who died on September 11.
‘If these defendants were members of the Klu Klux Klan and they were on trial for killing a black family, for burning their house, would they be allowed to wear their Klan uniforms in court to show their solidarity with their fellow Klan members? Absolutely not!’ she told MailOnline.
Mohammed and one other defendant attended the pretrial motions hearing for the military tribunal.
Three defendants chose to stay in their cells. The five are charged with planning and aiding the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
The only stipulation that the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, made regarding the dress code for the five defendants is that the camouflage that they wear must not be U.S. military uniforms.
That said, The New York Post reports that the camouflage hunting vest used by Mohammed and his fellow detainee was made by Rothco, an American company that produces hunting and military gear.
A spokesman for Rothco, the military and survivalist clothing supplier, confirmed that they were not aware that their vest was going to be the one that helped Mohammed make his symbolic statement in court on Wednesday.
‘We certainly aren’t happy that he’s chosen to wear our clothing into the court room much the same way Brooks Brothers would not be happy if a murderer wore their suit into court,’ said John Ottaviano, director of the company’s sales and marketing divisions.
The selection of a Rothco vest was in keeping with the judge’s specification that the camouflage worn by the defendent not be a part of any U.S. military uniform, as the company does not have any current contracts with the armed forces and does not supply any of their standard-issue uniforms.
That said, the vest is a common item, as Mr Ottaviano told MailOnline that it could be found in any Army Navy store.
Mohammed’s lawyer made a formal request to the judge asking to allow the camouflage because that is what Mohammed wore when he was part of the mujahedeen militia that fought to overthrow the Soviets.
‘These men are guilty of war crimes- you have to strip them of all those things that promotes their murderous cause,’ Mrs Burlingame said.
‘I’m sympathetic because he’s under a microscope and he wants the proceedings to be fair and to be perceived as fair and legitimate,’ explained Ms Burlingame, who is a former attorney, ‘but he doesn’t have to take it when defence council and the defendants go over the line.’
‘It is the judge’s job to insure a fair trial for the defendants and prevent them from making propagandist statements from inside an American military courtroom.
‘They are speaking to Islamists members of al Qaeda and those who would be ripe for recruitment for their cause. They want to portray themselves as soldiers of Allah.’
Mohammed and his four co-defendants face charges that include terrorism, conspiracy and 2,976 counts of murder in violation of the law of war, one count for each known victim of the September 11 attacks at the time the charges were filed. They could get the death penalty if convicted