Prosecution ties Guantanamo detainee to 9/11 hijackers

By Oyin Falana and Ricky Zipp, Medill News Service
Prosecution ties Guantanamo detainee to 9/11 hijackers
This week's pretrial hearings are being held at Camp Justice outside the Expeditionary Legal Complex at Guantamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Oyin Falana/Medill News Service

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- A former FBI agent testified that alleged 9/11 conspirator Mustafa Ahmad al Hawsawi had financial transactions with Mohammad Atta, accused of flying the first plane into the World Trade Center, and that al Hawasi showed no regret for the deaths of Americans on the planes.

Testifying Wednesday during a pretrial hearing, former FBI Special Agent Abigail Perkins, whose career has focused on al-Qaida, identified bank statements and other financial documents that showed transactions between al Hawsawi, and at least two of the "pilot hijackers," Atta and Fayez Bani Hammad. Pilot hijackers took over the aircraft, while "muscle hijackers" primarily subdued passengers and flight attendants.


The financial documents showed dates of transactions as late as one day before the four attacks on Sept. 11, which killed 2,976 people.


Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other defendants -- al Hawsawi, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al Shibh, and Ammar al Baluchi, also referred to as Ali Abd al Aziz Ali -- were arraigned in 2009, and pretrial proceedings began in 2012.

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The five defendants are being jointly tried on charges including terrorism, conspiracy and murder under the laws of war. They face the death penalty if convicted.

In a 2007 Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing transcript, the highest-profile defendant, Mohammed, said that he was "responsible for the 9/11 attacks from A to Z," and that he was also responsible for 30 other attacks or attempts.

The case against al Baluchi and al Hawsawi is focused on their role in the financial support of the attacks.

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The prosecution also introduced video evidence relating to the relationship between al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and previous attacks directed toward the United States, primarily the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa. In a 1997 interview, bin Laden told CNN's Peter Arnett, "You'll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing" when asked about his future plans.

Bin Laden published a fatwa -- an opinion on issues regarding Islamic law given by an authoritative figure -- declaring war on the United States, citing the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia and America's support of Israel.


A few months later, two U.S. embassies in East Africa were bombed.

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Perkins worked on both the FBI's 9/11 investigation and part of the investigations of the two embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania where 224 people were killed, including 12 Americans.

Perkins testified about the involvement of al-Qaida in the embassy bombings and the alleged financial ties between 9/11 co-conspirator al Hawsawi and some of the hijackers.

Perkins said she interviewed al Hawsawi four times and he appeared to give his answers voluntarily and did not seem under duress.

When asked what al Hawsawi's reaction was to those killed in the 9/11 attacks, Perkins answered, "He said that he didn't think about the deaths of the individuals."

The second day of witness testimony for the prosecution was heard under motion AE 502, a motion made by the defense to drop all charges in the case for a lack of personal jurisdiction that the Military Commissions Council has over al Hawsawi due to the absence of hostilities.

In order for the defendants to be tried by the Military Commissions, the prosecution has to prove that hostilities between al-Qaida and the United States existed before the 9/11 attacks.

The motion was filed for both al Hawsawi and al Baluchi. However, the judge separated the two defendants and this week's focus is on al Hawsawi.


James Connell, defense attorney for al Baluchi, said Tuesday he believes the prosecution strategy would be to establish a conspiracy and then begin to attach individuals to that conspiracy.

Walter Ruiz, defense attorney for al Hawsawi, said Sunday he hopes the personal jurisdiction motion will end with the Commissions dropping the charges against al Hawsawi. However, if the case is to remain with the Commissions, Ruiz said that he hopes the defendant will be separated from the other four accused co-conspirators.

Severing al Hawsawi from the group has been unsuccessfully attempted by Ruiz in the past, but could remain a possibility as the nearly six-year pretrial hearings move forward.

Ruiz is scheduled to cross examine Perkins and Fitzgerald on Thursday.

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