Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Cuba): The five men charged with coordinating the September 11 attacks are in a hurry to enter guilty pleas on their apparent quest for martyrdom, with only six weeks remaining before President-elect Barack Obama takes office.
The war-crimes detainees said they decided on 4 November, the day Obama was elected, to abandon their defences against the capital charges. Obama opposes the military trials and has pledged to close Guantanamo’s detention centre, which holds some 250 men.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on 8 December told a military judge he will confess to masterminding the attacks that killed 2,975 people, shocking victims’ relatives who watched from behind a glass partition.
Four other men also abandoned their defenses, in effect daring the Pentagon to grant their wish for martyrdom. The judge ordered lawyers to advise him by 4 January whether the Pentagon can apply the death penalty, which military prosecutors are seeking, without a jury trial.
“They were proud to be guilty and that says a lot about them,” said Maureen Santora, of Long Island City, New York, whose firefighter son Christopher died responding to the World Trade Center attacks.
At a press conference after the hearing, her husband Alexander held up photos of firefighters, his eyes brimming with tears.
“I know my son is with us,” he said, his voice thick. He wore a New York Fire Department cap.
The Santoras were among nine victims’ relatives who watched the proceedings, the first time family members have been allowed to observe the war-crimes trials. Maureen Santora watched from the back of the courtroom, wearing black and clutching a photo of her son in uniform.