SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The arraignment for the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and four other Guantanamo Bay prisoners will be broadcast by closed-circuit television to eight sites in the eastern United States, a military judge ruled Thursday.
Army Col. James Pohl said in his ruling that remote viewing locations are necessary because of the significant public interest in the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants.
Dozens of journalists as well as relatives of Sept. 11 victims are expected to attend the hearing at the U.S. base in Cuba on May 5 when Mohammed and the others are to be arraigned on charges that include murder and terrorism.
The government began showing closed-circuit TV coverage of Guantanamo proceedings in Fort Meade, Maryland, last year but has never before broadcast tribunal proceedings so widely from the base.
Pohl's order sets aside five viewing sites for families of Sept. 11 victims, survivors and emergency personnel who responded to the attack. Those will be at Fort Meade; Fort Hamilton and another site to be announced in New York City; Joint Base McGuire Dix in Lakehurst, New Jersey; and Fort Devens, Massachusetts.
There will be three other viewing sites for the public, journalists and government officials, two at Fort Meade and one in Washington.
Lawyers for some defendants opposed the closed-circuit broadcast on the grounds that the proceedings should be open to anyone to see, not just broadcast by closed-circuit TV at certain locations.
"We want it more transparent and more open," said Cheryl Bormann, a lawyer for defendant Waleed bin Attash. "We believe that the world needs to see what's happening."
This is the second time that the U.S. is attempting to prosecute the five prisoners at Guantanamo.
President Barack Obama's administration withdrew the charges and sought to move the case to a civilian court in the U.S. as part of an effort to close the prison on the base in Cuba. But the administration was forced to reverse course because of opposition in Congress and by New York City officials who said the case posed too great of a security threat.
The five men could get the death penalty if convicted at the military trial.