GUANTANAMO BAY US NAVAL BASE, Cuba - The death penalty trial of five Guantanamo prisoners accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks is so important that it should be televised to the public, defense lawyers argued on Friday.
The issue was discussed on the final day of a week-long pretrial hearing for the alleged mastermind of the hijacked plane attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four co-defendants accused of providing money, training and travel assistance to the hijackers.
Currently, the public can watch closed-circuit broadcasts of the Guantanamo war crimes court proceedings - but only at a 200-seat theater at Fort Meade, a US Army base in Maryland. Closed-circuit viewing sites at a handful of other military bases in the eastern United States are restricted to relatives of the 2,976 people killed in the hijacked plane attacks and to the firefighters, police officers and other "first responders" who gave aid and searched for victims at the crash sites in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The judge, US Army Colonel James Pohl, did not immediately rule on the request but appeared skeptical.
The prosecution said the US public's constitutional right to an open trial had been satisfied by the Fort Meade viewing site, and that no one who wanted to watch the hearings there had been turned away. Officials at Fort Meade have said during previous hearings that only a few dozen people turned up to watch, and that most of them were journalists, or lawyers assigned to other Guantanamo cases.