June 5, 2008

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, CUBA - At his arraignment today before a Guantánamo military commission on terrorism-related charges, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other detainees accused of participating in the 9/11 attacks refused legal representation by military and civilian defense attorneys.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

"It hardly comes as any surprise that after being held in solitary confinement for five years and being subjected to torture, these detainees would reject the legal system and offers to represent them. It is highly suspect that the government changed its protocols for the interaction of the defendants on the very day they were arraigned. For several years they've been held separately without communication and yet, on the day of their arraignment, they were allowed to interact with the obvious goal of allowing them to present a unified rejection of legal representation.

"No matter who is representing these defendants, many of whom have been abused and tortured, there needs to be a process in place that adheres to the values of due process and the rule of law that are the foundations of American justice — and this isn't it. Without constitutional guarantees in place, any verdict rendered by these proceedings will be regarded as illegitimate by the American people and in the eyes of the world."

The ACLU, in partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, formed the John Adams Project to provide expert teams of civilian defense lawyers to assist the under-resourced military defense counsel assigned to Guantánamo detainees, including Mohammed. The ACLU will continue to vigilantly monitor these proceedings to expose their fundamental deficiencies.

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