Five people accused of plotting the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have asked a judge at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to allow them to "confess" their guilt.
The alleged co-conspirators — including the confessed architect of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — asked Monday for a session to announce their "confessions" in a letter that implies they want to express their guilt. The letter does not specify whether they will admit to any specific charges, but says the defendants wish to drop all previous defense motions.
The five said they decided to abandon all efforts to defend themselves against the capital charges on Nov. 4, the day Barack Obama was elected to the White House.
Army Col. Stephen Henley, the judge at the proceedings, asked each defendant if he was ready to enter a plea. The letter they submitted requested "an immediate hearing session to announce our confessions."
The judge said competency hearings were pending for two of the detainees, precluding them from immediately filing pleas. Upon hearing that the charges might not bring the death penalty, Mohammed and the other two defendants said they'd "postpone" their pleas until the competency hearings could be completed for their co-defendants.
Some believe the confession might be a ploy to toy with the military tribunal.
"These guys are going to mess with the system," Charles Stimson, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told FOX News. "They have rejected their excellent defense lawyers. They’re going on their own here."
Stimson said the five would have to "spell out everything they did to satisfy the military judge [as to] why they're guilty" including listing "each and every fact that supports each and every element of every crime they're pleading to," he said.
Mohammed, who has already told interrogators he was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, also told the judge Monday that he had no faith in him, his Pentagon-appointed lawyers or President George W. Bush.
Sporting a chest-length gray beard, Mohammed said in English: "I don't trust you."
Mohammed, who is acting as his own lawyer, had been expected to cross-examine Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, a military legal adviser.
The pretrial hearings this week could be the last court appearance for the high-profile detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The first U.S. war-crimes trials since World War II are teetering on the edge of extinction. Obama opposes the military commissions — as the Guantanamo trials are called — and has pledged to close the detention center holding some 250 men soon after taking office next month.
Nine relatives of victims of the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks were expected to be on hand to observe Mohammed's pretrial hearing at this Navy base in southeastern Cuba. Five were chosen by military lottery and they brought four other relatives with them.
Mohammed and the other defendants appeared before Henley, who was assigned to the case after the previous judge resigned for undisclosed reasons in November. The defendants, who are all representing themselves, had been expected to question Henley about whether any conflicts would prevent him from impartially overseeing the death-penalty case.
No trial date has been set, and it is all but certain none will begin before Obama takes office on Jan. 20. Still, the U.S. military is pressing forward with the case until it receives orders to the contrary.
"We serve the sitting president and will continue to do so until President-elect Obama takes office," said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.
Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch, who is also an observer at this week's hearings, urged Obama to try terror suspects in federal court "where attention will focus on the defendants' alleged crimes rather than the unfairness of the commissions."
The military commissions have netted three convictions, but have been widely criticized for allowing statements obtained through harsh interrogations and hearsay to be admitted as evidence.
The victims' family members were expected to watch from a gallery at the rear of the cavernous, high-security courtroom and will not be allowed to address the defendants.
Maureen Santora, whose firefighter son Christopher was killed at the World Trade Center, says she wants to lock eyes with those accused of killing her son and 2,972 others in the bloodiest terrorist attacks ever on U.S. soil.
Relatives of about 30 more victims, mainly firefighters, have given Santora memorial cards that she planned to bring into court "to know their spirit is with us."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.