The sweeping confession of alleged al-Qaida mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has claimed involvement in 31 terror plots, has been met with skepticism from German commentators. Some editorialists have stronger feelings about the “show” trial against Mohammed than whether or not he is telling the truth.
According to a transcript released on Thursday by the Pentagon, suspected al-Qaida leader and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed made far-reaching confessions that he was “responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z,” and that he personally beheaded kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl with his own knife. Mohammed has allegedly claimed responsibility for a total of 31 terrorist attacks — some of which were never completed — an admission that would make him al-Qaida’s key operation planner.
German commentators criticize the conditions under which the confession was obtained, noting that Mohammed had been subjected to years of “rough” interrogations at the hands of the CIA. Apart from condemning a hearing that did not adhere to the laws laid out in the United States constitution, along with a transcript that was heavily edited, German papers also cite allegations that Mohammed was tortured during his four years at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility for suspected terrorists. Can his testimony be trusted or was he coerced into giving it?
It’s hard to say if there is anything more to Mohammed’s confessions than the fantasy product of a “vain, megalomaniacal über-terrorist,” writes the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:
“The transcript makes clear that Mohammed was the key figure in a network which sprang up in the Afghan-Pakistani border region, spanned the world and was financed by the Arabic world. It was ambitious in its goals and merciless with its victims. The greater the mass murder, the better. This was Khalid’s logic — and he even admitted it in front of a military tribunal. The evidence is overwhelming.”
“Admittedly, his confession is flawed because of its location and the allegedly problematic conditions under which he has been held ever since he was captured by the CIA in 2003. Has he ever been forced to give testimony or even tortured? He himself claims that he was tortured before being taken to Guantanamo, but that he voluntarily provided his current testimony. Still, whether or not this will satisfy the criteria for a legal trial is as controversial as the hearing itself has been. For its part, the Bush administration has nobody but itself to blame for the fact that the actions and motives of the perpetrator are now playing second fiddle to the practices used by the Americans in fighting terrorism.”
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung looks at Mohammed’s testimony and sees little more than a twisted egotist:
“Here we have an alleged super terrorist who claims to have been responsible for pretty much every mega-evil that has afflicted the world in recent years. This confession does more to render him untrustworthy than anything else. It also makes him look like a psychopath seeking infamy in the hour of his death. The audience wants to see the evidence behind the terror plots he claimed responsibility for.”
“Mohammed knows that he won’t be able to escape his fate. It is highly unlikely he will receive any sentence other than death, and he’s using his remaining time to turn himself into a martyr and to show the world the weaknesses of the American legal system.”
The left-wing Die Tageszeitung denounces the Pentagon’s actions as a “farce” and warns that the world will “never know” if the claims made by Mohammed are true:
“We don’t even know if this ‘hearing’ in front of a military tribunal at Guantanamo ever even took place. Apart from members of the military — whose names are crossed out in the transcript so that nobody can ask them any questions — nobody was allowed to attend: no lawyer, no reporter, not even family members.”
“Rightful justice cannot be obtained under the wrong conditions. The so-called confession is worthless, the upcoming trials are nothing more than show spectacles — the only irony being that there won’t be any audience. Indeed, the manner in which the USA deals with terror suspects has nothing to do with rule of law or seeking to establish the truth. This would require a proper defense, prison conditions which can be monitored and the right to appeal. And the suspect should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court led by independent judges.”
“The current procedures are disastrous from a human rights point of view. There is a need to solve those questions about 9/11 which are still open, but procedures like this just lead to a dead-end road.” Der Spiegel