Secret hearings for two suspected of being masterminds of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and a third terrorist suspect were held over the weekend at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the military launched proceedings to determine whether 14 high-profile detainees should be prosecuted.
According to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, hearings for Abu Faraj al-Libi and Ramzi Binalshibh were Friday, and a hearing for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was Saturday. He said another hearing at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba was scheduled for Monday.
The hearings are to determine whether the prisoners should be declared “enemy combatants” who can be held indefinitely and prosecuted in a military tribunal.
Mohammed is believed to have been the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks with the alleged help of Binalshibh, who also is suspected of being involved in a foiled plot to crash aircraft into London’s Heathrow Airport.
Al-Libi is a Libyan regarded by Pakistani intelligence as a successor to Mohammed as the third-ranking al-Qaida leader. He became the most wanted man in Pakistan for reportedly masterminding two bombings 11 days apart in December 2003 that targeted President Pervez Musharraf for his support of the U.S.-led war on terror. Musharraf narrowly escaped injury, but 17 other people were killed.
Whitman said that at least one of detainees did not attend the sessions. In those instances the cases are considered in absentia. Whitman would not say which suspects did not attend the hearings. Edited transcripts of the hearings will be released later, he said.
The 14 high-profile detainees were moved in September from a secret CIA prison network to the prison at Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. holds about 385 men on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.