Washington, Jun 6: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind behind the September 11 terrorist attacks, stunned a US military court by pleading for the death penalty. "I will plead guilty in hopes of being martyred by my executioners," he told a judge at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba on Thursday.
Mohammed said he would rather be martyred rather than being dragged through and ridiculed during a public trial. In his first public appearance since his capture five years ago, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who once boasted he was al Qaeda's military commander and No. 3 leader, said he was looking to be martyred for a long time. The dramatic hearing marked the first public appearance by Mohammed, also known as KSM, since the CIA nabbed him in Pakistan in March 2003.
Mohammed and four of his former henchmen were brought to a new courtroom built atop an old airstrip at this remote naval base and charged with war crimes.
The terrorists treated the hearing like a school reunion, with Mohammed laughing and chatting loudly with his minions: 9/11 plot facilitator Ramzi Binalshibh, Navy destroyer Cole bombing plotter Whalid Ba Attash, nephew Al Abdul Aziz Ali and al Qaeda moneyman Mustafa al-Hawsawi.
They had not seen one another since they were all free and on the run, the Daily News quoted a defence lawyer, as saying.
Mohammed declared the politically controversial military court "an inquisition" and referred to being water boarded by the CIA during his captivity.
"We been five years under torture," he complained to Marine Colonel Ralph Kohlmann, the presiding judge.