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In this photo of a sketch by artist Janet Hamlin, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is shown wearing a camouflage vest.
Janet Hamlin/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 10/18/2012
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba--The self-styled terrorist mastermind of Sept. 11 wore a camouflage vest for the first time Wednesday at his military war crimes tribunal, a clothing choice previously denied because of fears it might disrupt the court.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has told authorities he was behind the hijacking plot, wore the woodland-style camouflage vest with a white tunic and turban at a pretrial hearing at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba.
The 47-year-old prisoner's attire had no apparent effect on the proceedings. Mohammed, who did not attend the first part of the morning court session, sat quietly at the defense table. He made no statements, and no one in the court mentioned his clothing.
Mohammed, whose bushy beard is dyed a rust color with henna, considers himself a prisoner of war, and he wanted the same right to wear a uniform as the Japanese and German troops prosecuted for war crimes after World War II, according to his lawyers.
But when he and a co-defendant sought to wear camouflage items at their May 5 arraignment, their request was denied. At the time, the commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison said the camouflage might make it harder for the military prison guards to gain control of the prisoners if necessary, suggesting the clothing could make it more difficult to tell the difference between inmates and fellow troops.
Prosecutors also argued it might make a mockery of the military tribunals.
"The detainee's attire should not transform this commission into a vehicle for propaganda and undermine the atmosphere that is conducive to calm and detached deliberation and determination of the issues," prosecutors wrote in a court motion.
The judge in the case, Army Col. James Pohl, rejected those arguments Tuesday. He dismissed the suggestion that the more than a dozen military guards in the courtroom would have any problem distinguishing the bearded defendants. But just to be sure, he specifically prohibited the defendants from wearing any items from U.S. military uniforms.
There was no apparent reaction to the camouflage from the small group of relatives of Sept. 11 victims who were chosen by lottery to view the proceedings at the base.