Accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed wanted to wear paramilitary-style woodland-patterned camouflage clothing to court.
His nephew wanted to sport the same cap he used to pose for a Red Cross photo.
A series of documents unsealed at the Pentagon this week reveal a source of tension at the May 5 arraignment of the Sept. 11 accused at Guantánamo the men sought to wear what the prison camps commander considered alternately unsafe, culturally inappropriate or disruptive attire. And he forbade it.
Now, lawyers for the five men who face a death-penalty trial are appealing to the chief military commissions judge to stop the camps commander, Rear Adm. David B. Woods, from interfering with their clients court wardrobe.
The challenge to the authority of Woods, who runs the camps that houses 169 prisoners, is the latest in a series by defense attorneys who argue that the career Navy officer, whose speciality is intelligence jamming, has interfered with the court process by having his forces go through the captives attorney-client mail. Woods, who will be replaced at the U.S. Navy base later this month, has countered that security is paramount.
Now, in an affidavit, the admiral explains how he and the colonel in charge of the prison camp guard force went through the accuseds proposed wardrobe provided by their Pentagon attorneys, most uniformed officers and rejected everything but the white gowns and prison camp uniforms that they wore to court for the unusual Saturday arraignment.
As a result, the most traditionally clad person in court was a secular attorney Cheryl Bormann from Chicago who donned a black abaya, a shapeless headscarf and gown that covered her hair and left only her face exposed.
Bormann, paid by the Pentagon to defend accused al Qaida deputy Walid bin Attash, said she was respecting her clients Muslim sensibilities and at one point scolded women on the Pentagon prosecution team to watch their hemlines.
The hearing spanned 13 hours and began with attorneys bitterly complaining that the five men accused of organizing, training and funding the Sept. 11 hijackings were refused their choice of attire.
In the instance of the alleged mastermind, Woods wrote, Mohammeds lawyer presented a jacket, hunting vest and fabric for a proposed turban all made of woodlands camouflage print shown with a label calling it a Rangers Vest in a court document. Woods said he forbade it because of security and good order and discipline concerns, and because they were inappropriate courtroom attire.
War crimes defendants at World War II tribunals at Tokyo and Nuremberg were able to wear military-style clothing to their trials, said Mohammeds attorney, Army Capt. Jason Wright. Mohammed sought to wear militia-style clothing in the Laws of Armed Conflict sense of the term, as a paramilitary organization.
Two of the accused sought to wear traditional Afghan caps and vests no camouflage, purchased at a Virginia shop called Halalco that specializes in Muslim products. And in each instance Woods rejected that choice of attire because such vests are traditionally only worn during the winter or in colder climates.
James Connell III, the attorney for Mohammeds nephew, known as Ammar al Baluchi, said the cap that his client wasnt allowed to wear to court was the same as the one he wore to pose for photographs that were taken by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Those photos have turned up on websites sympathetic to al Qaida. Neither contained any messages, he said, describing Baluchis proposed wardrobe as banal.