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Defendents Delay And Disrupt Guantanamo Hearing

It wasn't a wild scene in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom where the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and four others were being arraigned on Saturday, but it was certainly in disarray.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the rest of the defendants repeatedly refused to answer the judge's questions and employed other distractions to bog down the proceedings, as the AP reports.

As NPR's Dina Temple-Raston tells our Newscast Desk, at one point defendant Ramzi Binalshibh stood up and started praying, complete with prayer rug. At another point he began shouting that he would be killed back at camp and that guards would call it suicide.

Temple-Raston was in the courtroom today, and she reports that the strategy for the defense seems to be "delay, delay, delay." Mohammed, she says, was in charge when it came to the defendants.

"He would talk to them, then they would pass sort of whatever it is he said back down the line of this row of tables where they were sitting," she says.

The antics slowed the arraignment, the final preliminary step that enters the defendants into the military commission system. The trial itself is still as much as a year away. A military commissions tribunal, Temple-Raston notes, is different from a military court or court martial.

"This is a special system that was set up specifically for terrorism suspects, and it was set up down here in Guantanamo as a way to sort of move people out of Guantanamo Bay prison," she tells Newscast.

In the military commission system, defendants don't necessarily enter a plea at an arraignment like they might in the federal system, she says. Instead today, the defense introduced a series of motions for the judge to consider — which also delayed proceedings.

"So we're unlikely to hear what they are going to plead," Temple-Raston says. "Although you know from the way that they're acting, it's pretty clear that they're not going to plead guilty and just allow the judge to decide their fate."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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