By Jane Sutton
GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba, Jan 31 (Reuters) -
Watching the U.S. military tribunal hearings for the men accused
of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks can be gut-wrenching for the
victims' families, some of whom are still receiving their
relatives' newly identified remains thanks to improved DNA
testing unavailable a decade ago.
Some family visitors have said they are galled to see
American lawyers, including some U.S. military lawyers paid with
their tax money, fighting vigorously in court to safeguard the
rights of what one called "these monsters."
Family visitors attending this week's session at the
Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, most of them the parents
of Cantor Fitzgerald brokers who died in the World Trade Center,
had an unprecedented private meeting on Sunday with the defense
lawyers, sharing their painful stories and in some cases, crying
"They were truthful, they were honest and they expressed
their pain. I myself learned a great deal from them," said James
Connell, a civilian defense lawyer for Pakistani defendant Ali
Abdul Aziz Ali.
The lawyers explained their role in the adversarial court
process and said it was their duty to provide a zealous defense.
"I am proud of our nation for doing that but it does hurt,"
Matthew Sellitto said after watching two days of hearings this
week in the U.S. military tribunal of five men charged with
plotting to slaughter his 23-year-old son, also named Matthew,
and 2,975 other people.
He said the legal process was necessary to build a verdict
that would stand up on appeal.
His wife, Loreen Sellitto, said it was difficult "to see
these fellow Americans defending people ... who started out that
day not to kill my son but to kill Americans en masse."
More than 11 years later, Sellitto and his wife sat behind a
glass wall in the spectator gallery in the courtroom.
They listened as the defendant Ali, asked to phone home.
Ali, a Pakistani, had learned in October that his father died,
and he wanted to make a condolence call to his mother, Ali's
lawyer told the court.
The judge said he empathized but did not think he had
authority to order such a call. That was fine with Matthew
"I wouldn't have given him that right, no," Sellitto said.
"He made his choice. Now he's got to live with that choice."
Joyce Woods, a Pearl River, New York, woman whose
26-year-old son James also worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, said she
felt sorry for Ali's mother but would not have allowed the call
"I didn't get to talk to my son. I didn't get the
opportunity to have one last phone call," Woods said. "I cannot
be generous enough to say 'yes, you can talk to your mother but
my son cannot talk to me.'"
Relatives of those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks are chosen
in a Pentagon lottery to travel to the remote Guantanamo base to
attend pretrial hearings for the alleged conspirators and some
may eventually testify in their trial on charges that include
attacking civilians, terrorism and hijacking.
The relatives who make the trip often disagree about whether
the trials for the Sept. 11 suspects should be held in New York
or Guantanamo, in federal courts or in military tribunals. They
express little doubt the defendants will be convicted but have
varying opinions about whether they should be executed.
Loreen Sellitto said the appropriate sentence would be life
in prison with their every move dictated by "the culture they
tried to destroy. Americans would control when they eat, when
they pray, when they exercise."
And whether they ever make another phone call.
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