FORT MEADE, Md. U.S. government prosecutors asked a military judge for permission on Tuesday to allow Sept. 11, 2001 victim’s families to testify in open court during a pre-trial hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The man who took credit for planning the hijacked plane attacks is one of the five men facing the death penalty in the case.
Civilian prosecutor Edward Ryan said about 400 relatives of the victims have been asked to testify. If approved the prosecutors would question the first 10 in October.
Ryan said two potential witnesses wanted to testify, but they passed away. The 10 witnesses mostly comprise of the elderly parents of the victims.
One witness is Lee Hanson, from Connecticut, who lost his granddaughter in the attacks. She was the youngest victim, according to Ryan. His son and daughter-in-law were also killed when United Airlines Flight 175 was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center.
His son, Peter, called Lee to described the event.
“During the hijacking, Peter called our witness…and described to him what was going inside the plane,” Ryan said. “That’s about the only direct evidence we have from someone on Flight 175.”
Defense attorneys are opposed to the requests of using the victims’ families as witnesses, citing their remarks could influence potential jurors. They have suggested the statements could be videotaped and used as evidence for the trial.
“What the government is asking to do is have a public exposition of the tragedy that these individuals experienced, and they’re asking to do that in a way where future panel members and jurors can have exposure to it,” said Cheryl Bormann, attorney for Walid bin Attash, a suspected al Qaeda training camp leader from Yemen.
The defense lawyers have requested information about how the five suspects were treated at Guantanamo Bay, a controversial military base with 80 prisoners currently. President Barack Obama has pledged to close the prison before he leaves office in January.
Reuters contributed to the reporting in this story.