September 11 defendants ask to plead guilty

8/12/2008 - 15:00

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - The self-styled mastermind of the September 11 attacks and four co-defendants sent a note to a military judge at Guantanamo on Monday saying they wanted to confess and plead guilty.

The judge said he would question the five, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected planner of the September 11 attacks, to ensure that was their wish.

The judge, Army Col. Steven Henley, read from the note, which began: "We all five have reached an agreement to request from the commission an immediate hearing session in order to announce our confessions ... with our earnest desire in this regard without being under any kind of pressure, threat, intimidations or promise from any party."

The note said all five wished to plead guilty and withdraw any pending motions filed by their military-appointed lawyers, whom they do not trust and have tried to fire.

The surprise move by the five defendants came as the U.S. military resumed pretrial hearings at the Guantanamo naval base, in a remote U.S.-controlled corner of Cuba, for the accused plotters of the September 11 attacks.

The hearings went forward as scheduled, even though the pending change in the U.S. administration made it unlikely defendants' trials would ever be held at the base.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama. who takes office on January 20, has said he will shut down the widely condemned Guantanamo prison camp and try detainees in the regular U.S. civilian or military courts rather than the special Guantanamo tribunals created by the Bush administration.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Jackie Frank)

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