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Guantánamo ‘20th Hijacker’ Hears Charges in Civilian Court

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A Bahraini-born man accused of being the “20th hijacker” in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — the first detainees transferred from the detention center at Guantánamo Bay to face charges in a U.S. civilian court — was formally named on Thursday as the defense witness in the high-profile civilian trial of the five accused plotters.

The defense request to testify in the case of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri at a pretrial hearing on Friday “contains a sensitive story” and will provide “an important perspective on the trial,” a military judge said. Defense lawyers have not specified what a key witness will say but their work to extract information from Nashiri about his alleged role in the attack has been described as among the Pentagon’s most sensitive since the Guantánamo facility opened.

A Pentagon official called Nashiri the “20th hijacker” because of the seven names for which he and the four others, held by the Navy without access to counsel, agreed to admit among the aliases they used on government documents.

Nashiri is accused of helping plot the attacks, including by carrying out a suicide attack. He is being tried in federal court under federal statutes with judges hearing evidence from witnesses who have yet to be identified publicly. He is facing charges of conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking, and terrorism.

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