June 6th, 2008
10:06 AM ET

The man in charge

Court sketch of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Waleed bin Attash, two of the September 11, 2001 attacks co-conspirator suspects.

Court sketch of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Waleed bin Attash, two of the September 11, 2001 attacks co-conspirator suspects.

Kelli Arena
CNN Correspondent

He's been in custody for more than five years. He's been waterboarded. He's been held in isolation. But the man who appeared in a military courtroom was far from broken. Self confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was clearly the man in charge.

The five detainees, who hadn't been in the same room together in years, were allowed to talk before the military commission got started. Reporters were allowed to view their interaction but were behind a glass panel and could not hear them. Mohammed had an extremely calm demeanor, and held himself rather regally. He was clearly chastising some of his alleged co-conspirators, shaking his finger at them and frowning. He continued to talk to them even after the proceedings started.

At one point he held up four fingers then pointed at Mustafa Ahmad al Hawsawi who put his head down. It was clear al Hawsawi was a holdout for whatever strategy he was trying to maneuver. Later in the evening, al Hawsawi's lawyer told reporters, "I can tell you from my impression it was clear that Mr. Mohammed was attempting to intimidate Mr. al Hawsawi into not accepting me as counsel."

Another lawyer - who did not want to be identified because it wasn't clear what he could and could not say publicly - told CNN that his client was physically shaken after his encounter with Mohammed. He says when his client was conferring with him, Mohammed chided, "What are you part of the American army now? "

One by one, the detainees followed Mohammed's lead and rejected their legal teams. Lawyers were clearly frustrated, one grumbling that just 10 minutes before his client did not have a problem with him.

Mohammed calmly told the judge he planned to plead guilty to the charges against him. He said he wanted to be a martyr. It will be interesting to see just how far the others will go to appease him.

Filed under: Kelli Arena • Terrorism
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Mel Araiza, Phoenix, AZ

    I agree with Cindy and Sabrina. Don't let him be the martyr he wants to be, that just shows he controls his own fate. They should let him rot in prison...though that in itself seems kind of too nice for someone who planned all that horror. But what else can we do? It's not like we can secretly torture the dude...

    June 7, 2008 at 11:00 am |
  2. Sabrina in Los Angeles

    WOW...what a crazy man he has to be.

    He wants to die and be a martyr. He took away those innocent peoples lives and normally we would kill such a person who does just this but that is exactly what he wants...fame recognition for that....

    I think he needs to go back to solitary confinement and die an old man whom the world has forgotten!

    He wants death....we'll give him life (in jail) and not make him the martyr he wishes to be.

    So evil. I can't believe that such evil exists in this world.

    June 6, 2008 at 7:10 pm |
  3. Janet, 60+White Female American via Canada

    These and any other individual who hijacks a Faith of any kind, should be put into solitare confinement for the rest of their days, without sunlight and let them rot by themselves without anyone to visit, or know where they are, just slid bread and water in a crack!

    June 6, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  4. Cindy

    Hey....If I were in charge of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's trial I would make sure that he didn't get the death penalty to show him that he controls nothing. And to also keep him from being a martyr to other terrorists like him. I'd make him spend the rest of his life in prison, the worst one we have!

    And if his co-defendants are stupid enough to do as he says and plead guilty and ask for death then let them die.


    June 6, 2008 at 10:17 am |