updated 12/11/2008 7:38:11 AM ET 2008-12-11T12:38:11

Two dozen family members of Sept. 11 victims signed a letter Wednesday saying they don't believe in the fairness of the military trials of five men charged with orchestrating the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Some suggested their opinions cost them attendance at the proceedings.

While the family members who attended this week's proceedings at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba expressed support for the tribunals, they also said "that many of us do not believe these military commissions to be fair, in accordance with American values, or capable of achieving the justice that 9/11 family members and all Americans deserve," according to the letter released by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Denied a spot in lottery
Robin Theurkauf, whose husband was killed at the World Trade Center, said she wanted to attend the proceedings but was denied a spot in a lottery for family members.

"I testified for the defense in the (Zacarias) Moussaoui trial," Theurkauf said, referring to the convicted Sept. 11 conspirator. "I think I was skipped over because of that."

Lorie Van Auken, whose husband Kenneth was killed at the trade center, also wanted to attend the hearings. She has been a prominent critic of the Guantanamo proceedings, accusing the government of using torture to coerce confessions.

"It could be that they didn't want the critical voices to be heard," Van Auken said.

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday that five family members from a pool of 113 people were chosen randomly through a computer program to attend the proceedings.

Their selection was "based on what came through the computer," not their opinions, he said, noting that each family member was allowed to bring one other person.

The victims' relatives were allowed to observe the war-crimes proceedings for the first time Monday.

The five detainees, including alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said they intended to abandon their defenses and confess to charges they orchestrated the 2001 terrorist attack.

Several family members said they were told they could watch this week's proceedings from remote video hookups at military facilities across the country, but they hadn't been accommodated.

Gordon said the military had made arrangements for families to view the actual trial, but this week's appearances were preliminary.

More on Guantanamo   |  September 11

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