Transcript: Cheryl Bormann’s remarks on the arraignment of alleged 9/11 co-conspirator Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash

Transcript of remarks by Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned defense counsel, on the arraignment of Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash at Guantanamo Bay on charges related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

(*NOTE: Press conference was held on Sunday, May 6, 2012)

Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned counsel for Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin'Attash, speaking to reporters at Guantanamo Bay on May 6, 2012. SOURCE: Department of Defense / Sgt. 1st Class Robert Stephenson

Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned counsel for Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash:

“We want you to understand that despite the fact that Mr. Bin’Attash has 3 counsels, quantity doesn’t equal quality. We’re barred and restricted and constrained in everything we do. So having the 3 of us here doesn’t really mean that he has 3 great lawyers; it means that he has 3 lawyers who can’t really do their jobs.

“I’m going to address the clothing issue once right now and I will not take any questions about that.

“So I dressed in – it’s called – hijab and abaya. I dress that way when I meet with my client at all times. He’s never seen me dressed like this. And it’s out of respect for his cultural and religious beliefs. And I dress like that in court because that is what is required of me. So that’s the end of that story.

“Does anybody have any questions other than the clothing?”


Question: 

“Yesterday you said in court that your client had marks on his arms. You didn’t elaborate but you said that it was because of the guards at Gitmo. Is there anything else you can tell us about that? Did your client tell you about this or did you see this brought up by your client to you in conversations? Anything you can tell us?”

Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned counsel for Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash:

“Well, unfortunately, like the other counsel here, I can’t tell you what my client says because everything is presumptively top secret. So if my client wanted a tuna fish sandwich for lunch, I couldn’t tell you that.

“So, what I can tell you though is that I have viewed scars on his arms and that we have reasons to believe that he had been subjected to mistreatment while in the camps. And we’re hoping to address that with the court and hoping to get a fair hearing on that.

“Of course, the fact that the hearings themselves aren’t transparent or fair means we’d probably be constrained in what we can say. So we do have that issue as well.”


Question: 

“You say that he’s mistreated in camps. Do you think it’s recent or do you think it’s ongoing or do you have reason to believe that it happened in the past?”

Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned counsel for Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash:

“I can’t really answer that.”

Question: 

“I’ve heard reports that you yourself have already gotten death threats since yesterday’s court hearing. Can you address that? And have any of your colleagues received death threats because of them doing their jobs as attorneys?”

Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned counsel for Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash:

“I can’t speak to my colleagues. I’ve been doing death penalty work for a very long time, so I’m accustomed to being, I guess, universally hated for that. I can’t comment on what happened to other people. It disturbs me.”

Question: 

“Was there anything in the conduct and management of the pre-trial hearing yesterday by the military judge which gave you some hope that you and your client would receive at least a fair hearing?”

Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned counsel for Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash:

“Mr. Connell is hopeful. I’m not. When I was questioning the judge yesterday, I honed in on one of my major concerns, which is this: In a first-rate system of justice – the gold standard here is federal court, right? and most of our state courts come close to that – there is no reason to have a script. There is no reason that a chief prosecutor has to get up and make PR statements regularly, whether they’re in colleges or before bar associations or before you all about how fair the system is because we know it is. Here, I’m here to tell you, that it isn’t, and I can’t tell you all the reasons why it isn’t because they’re classified. But one of the reasons it’s not fair is because of the quality of the judge. Judge Pohl seems to be a very bright man and he seems to be a very pleasant man. But Judge Pohl admittedly doesn’t have the knowledge nor the expertise to handle this type of litigation. And as we go forward in this case, that’s going to become apparent. And I’m sure that he wants to project to the world the idea that he is fair, but what happens behind closed doors tells a different story. That’s why we refuse, from the very beginning, to attend those off-the-record, secret, behind-closed-door hearings. We believe that you and the rest of the world ought to see exactly what happens in these hearings.

“One of our concerns is that what happened in the Nashiri case will happen here. I know you’ve all been following it but remember when Mr. Al-Nashiri was going to testify at a hearing regarding his shackling and then there was an off-the-record conference and they all came back to court and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Judge Pohl ruled that Mr. Al-Nashiri could be unshackled. Now, this was the same judge, who several months earlier had indicated he couldn’t rule without hearing any evidence. There was no evidence heard. I can’t tell you what happened behind closed doors to change Judge Pohl’s mind, but in the 9/11 cases – at least with respect to Mr. Bin’Attash – you will know what the arguments are, you will know what the evidence is, and there will be no doubt why somebody ruled in a particular way.

“One more.”

Question: 

“I think there’s a great desire among our readers and so forth to understand why you made the comment you made to the prosecution about the female members of the prosecution team and their attire. Could you take this opportunity to explain exactly what you were objecting to or what the purpose was of those remarks? Was this aimed at your client’s ears as rapport-building or was there something specific about their clothing that you actually thought was inappropriate?”

Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned counsel for Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash:

“I’m smiling because you used the term ‘rapport-building’, which is a death penalty word that we often use in dealing with defense of capital cases.

“Last in the iteration of these proceedings in 2008, there was a paralegal on the prosecution’s side who wore very short skirts to court regularly. It was in very revealing tops. It became a distraction for the accused in this case. And of course one of the values that we Americans hold near and dear, right, is that when you’re on trial for your life, you need to be focused. I mean, we’re trying to focus people. And if because of somebody’s religious beliefs, they cannot focus when somebody in the courtroom is dressed in a particular way, I feel incumbent on myself as counsel to point that out and ask for some consideration from the prosecution. I will not name the individual. I will not describe what she was wearing. Suffice it to say that it was distracting to members of the accused.”

Question: 

“So this was not yesterday. This was 3.5 years ago? No one yesterday was dressed inappropriately?”

Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned counsel for Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash:

“There was somebody dressed in a way that was not in keeping with my client’s religious beliefs.”

Question: 

“Yesterday, you said in court that the world is watching. How much of yesterday was appealing to the court of public opinion rather than the issues at hand?”

Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned counsel for Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash:

“I can tell you from the Bin’Attash defense perspective, none of it was focused on the world opinion. All of it was focused on trying to preserve our client’s rights and point out to this court, in what may be a futile attempt to get fair rulings, but later on to an appellate court. And that’s my main goal.

“I really do believe in the Constitution. I hope we use it.

“One more and that’s it.”

Question: 

“Why was your client shackled when he was brought into court yesterday? And what was your reaction as you were describing the mistreatment when he raised his shirt?”

Cheryl Bormann, civilian learned counsel for Walid Mohammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash:

“That’s 2 questions but I’ll answer them both.

“The first answer is that I don’t know why he was shackled. The guards never told me, and to this day I have no idea.

“The second answer is obviously there are some strong feelings that he has regarding his treatment, which I didn’t know he was going to take off his shirt. When I turned around and saw that that was occurring, at that point there’s not much I can do to prevent it since I’m at the podium and he’s over there. So the judge asked him to put his shirt back on and he did.

“And thank you, ladies and gentlemen.”

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