Arraignment of 9/11 mastermind approaches in Cuba
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried in front of US military tribunal, victims' families to watch on closed-circuit TV at military bases
By Meghan Barr
NEW YORK — It has been a year of milestones for the families of those killed on Sept. 11, with the death of Osama Bin Laden followed by the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Now another painful chapter is set to begin: the prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11.
Victims' relatives will gather at military bases along the East Coast on Saturday to watch on closed-circuit TV as Mohammed and four co-defendants are arraigned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they will eventually be tried in front of a U.S. military tribunal. The trial is probably at least a year away.
For some, the arraignment is a long-awaited moment in a case fraught with years of frustrating delays. For others, watching the proceedings holds no appeal at all. They simply want to move on with their lives.
Jim Riches, a retired firefighter from Brooklyn who pulled his firefighter son's body out of the rubble at ground zero, said he plans to watch from New York City's Fort Hamilton.
"I think it will give the whole world a look at how evil these men are and that they deserve what they get," he said. "I think it's going to be very upsetting for some families who haven't seen their act before. I'm sure they'll be walking out crying."
The vast majority of victims' families have never seen Mohammed, aside from a widely disseminated photograph of a disheveled-looking Mohammed in a white T-shirt immediately after his arrest. A small number of them have traveled to Guantanamo and seen him there. Five of them, chosen by lottery, will fly there on Friday to see the arraignment in person.
Mohammed and the others are expected to be arraigned on charges that include terrorism and murder. They could get the death penalty if convicted in the attacks that sent hijacked airliners slamming into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed.
"I just hope for the sake of the 3,000 families that they get what they deserve," Riches said. "Because it's not enough. They were broken into pieces."
It's unclear exactly how many families will watch at military bases. At Fort Meade, between Baltimore and Washington, organizers are preparing for about 150 members of the public. A spokesman for Joint Base McGuire Dix in Lakehurst, N.J., said very few people were planning to go, though he declined to give a number.
Barbara Minervino of Middletown, N.J., whose husband, Louis, an executive at an insurance and investment firm, died in the twin towers, said she will be attending a happy occasion on Saturday instead: a Communion party for a member of the family.
"We're looking toward living," she said. "We're looking toward the future and not the past."
Mary Fetchet, who lost her son Brad at the trade center and founded the support group Voices of Sept. 11, said she has a prior engagement and can't watch arraignment but will be closely following the trial.
Fetchet surveys the 9/11 survivors every year and said she found that they are dealing with the tragedy in vastly different ways, even within the same family.
"Some people will follow it on media reports, and some people just want to put it behind them," she said. "I think the trial is another roadblock in them being able to move forward. I think the thing you have to realize is that everybody goes through it differently, and you just have to respect what the needs of each individual are."
There's a sense of bitterness among many that it took more than 10 years just to get to this point in the case.
"We've had him in custody for so many years, and now we're finally getting to it," said Jim Ogonowski, the brother of John Ogonowski of Dracut, Mass., the pilot of one of the jetliners that crashed into the World Trade Center.
Ogonowski will not join other families on Saturday at Fort Devens, Mass., though he said he might watch later developments, which the Pentagon also plans to show to the public.
"The reality is it's been over 10 years since the 9/11 tragedies. This is not going to bring my brother back or any other victims of that day," he said. "I do want to see justice done, but the fact is, to go watch an arraignment isn't going to bring them back."
Associated Press Reporters Geoff Mulvihill in Middletown, N.J., David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., Denise Lavoie in Boston, and Ben Fox in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press