9/11 suspect: 'I wish to be martyred'
Mohammed wishes to dismiss his lawyers, plead guilty and become a martyr, he said at his long-awaited arraignment at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, asked Mohammed numerous times if he understood that he faces the death penalty. Mohammed responded, "That is what I wish. I wish to be martyred."
He told Kohlmann he could not accept any attorney because he only believes in Sharia, or Islamic law.
Mohammed and his four co-defendants, all suspected al Qaeda figures, are being arraigned on numerous charges for their alleged roles in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington, which killed nearly 3,000 people.
It is the first time that reporters have been able to see the accused al Qaeda operatives, who were all in the same room for the first time since their arrests in 2002 and 2003.
Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, chief military judge for the tribunal, told Mohammed the charges against him could result in a death sentence if he is convicted by a panel of military officers, to which the bearded defendant known as KSM replied: "This is what I wish. I wanted to be a martyr for a long time."
Mohammed rejected representation by Navy Capt. Prescott Prince, saying he wore the uniform of his American enemies and had pledged allegiance to President Bush, "who wages systemic war against the Islamic world."
Alternating chanted Koran verses with stated English translations, Mohammed told the high-security courtroom packed with lawyers, clerks and guards that he would represent himself at a trial the prosecution proposes to start in September.
He also disputed the judge's assurances that the lawyers were provided for his benefit, saying that "after five years of torturing . . . you transfer us to Inquisition Land in Guantanamo."
There is no question that Mohammed takes full responsibiltiy for the attacks, but it is unknown at this point what his sentence may end up being.
In a written statement read at a March 2007 hearing, at which he was present, Mohammed said he was responsible for the attacks "from A to Z."
Although Thursday's proceedings may not be complex, they follow years of struggles by the Bush administration to craft a process for bringing the detainees to trial, and officials involved in the military commissions know that the eyes of the world will be on them.
Critics have called Guantanamo Bay a legal "black hole" for detainees who the United States says are not protected as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
Defense attorneys had asked for Thursday's proceedings to be delayed, arguing that they have not had enough time with their clients since the charges were announced in May.