The five men the Justice Department has said will be charged in the attacks of Sept. 11 intend to plead not guilty so they can express their political and religious views during a trial, the lawyer for one of the men said on Saturday.
The lawyer, Scott L. Fenstermaker, said that during a meeting at the GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba, prison on Tuesday, his client, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, expressed the desire for a trial despite his intention to admit his role in the attacks and seek “martyrdom” through execution.
“He acknowledges that he helped plan the 9/11 attacks, and he says he’s looking forward to dying,” Mr. Fenstermaker said of Mr. Ali. But he said he expected Mr. Ali and his co-defendants to plead not guilty “so they can have a trial and try to get their message out.”
Mr. Ali, also known as Ammar al-Baluchi, is a nephew of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief organizer of the 2001 plot. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced on Nov. 13 that Mr. Mohammed, Mr. Ali and three other alleged 9/11 plotters would be tried in federal criminal court. Mr. Fenstermaker said Mr. Ali told him all five men would seek a trial.
The report of Mr. Ali’s comments may add to complaints from critics of Mr. Holder’s decision who favored military trials in Cuba and have said a criminal trial will provide terrorists with a propaganda platform. Defenders of the move say military commissions, too, would have given the defendants a public showcase for their views.
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Fenstermaker, who represents Mr. Ali in a civil case challenging his detention and visited him for three days last week, gave The New York Times a translation from Arabic of a two-page letter written by Mr. Mohammed, Mr. Ali, and a third 9/11 defendant, Walid Muhammad Salih bin Attash to the military court at GuantÃ¡namo in September.
The letter was written to say that the men had no objection to a 60-day continuance in military commission proceedings. But the three men used it to condemn the United States’ military presence in Muslim countries and its support for Israel, a preview of the kind of thing they might be expected to say in court.
“We were arrested in 2003 and we spent three years moving around between the black sites in the ‘Dark Ages’ of Bush, then we were transferred to the island of oppression, torture and terror, GuantÃ¡namo, in 2006,” the letter said. The phrase ‘Dark Ages’ was in English in the original, the translator noted.
The letter goes on to excoriate President Obama, describing the current era as “the black ages of Barack” and calling him “a liar.” The three men offer greetings to Osama bin Laden; his deputy in Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri; and the head of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Since their first appearances in military court at GuantÃ¡namo, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 defendants have indicated that they would admit their role in the terrorist plot and seek to be executed. But when they are indicted and brought to New York City for arraignment, as expected sometime in the next two months, they will have the option afforded any criminal defendant of pleading not guilty and standing trial….