FORT MEADE, Md. — Walid bin Attash, an accused organizer of the 9/11 attacks, requested Tuesday that Judge Col. James Pohl review a letter he wrote explaining why he doesn’t trust his lawyers on the first day of his pre-trial hearing at Guantanamo Bay.
The hearing for five al-Qaida members in United States vs. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who are accused of being the leaders of the 9/11 attacks in which about 3,000 people were killed, resumed Tuesday after a suspension last October and years of delay. It was simulcast to Fort Meade Army post in suburban Washington.
Bin Attash, who is accused of training 9/11 hijackers, was captured in 2003 along with a co-conspirator, imprisoned in Afghanistan and shipped to Guantanamo Bay where he awaits trial.
Bin Attash said Tuesday that his attorneys, Cheryl Bormann and Mike Schwartz, have “become the enemy.” He said the lawyers could be working with the U.S. government against him. His suspicion stemmed from a secret FBI investigation in 2014 that found leaks compromising attorney-client confidentiality.
The Yemen citizen wrote a letter to the judge that he said clarifies misleading information presented to the judge by his counsel. But he did not want his attorneys to present the note to the judge.
“We have a major problem,” bin Attash said. “How can we get in touch with a judge directly as long as I do not trust the lawyer?”
Pohl initially hesitated to accept the note, saying that if bin Attash is going to have lawyers rather than representing himself, a judge can’t conduct legal analysis on his behalf.
“I understand you come from a different culture,” Pohl said, “but the system of law that we apply is the one set up by the president and the Congress, and that’s how we’re going to try it.”
Pohl suspended the military tribunal hearing until Wednesday and agreed to review the letter after it has been translated.