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Prosecutors may not review terror suspect's pretrial statement

Justice SystemCrime, Law and JusticeSulaiman Abu GhaithAl-QaedaKhalid Sheikh MohammedCentral Intelligence Agency

WASHINGTON—Federal prosecutors will not be allowed to review the answers that alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed provides later this week to the defense team of a fellow suspected terrorist, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan was a victory for accused Al Qaeda propagandist Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who is set to face trial in New York next week. It gives his defense team more leeway to review Mohammed's responses and decide whether to use them to bolster their defense.

The order also stipulates that Mohammed cannot be asked any questions about his years being held in a secret CIA “black site,” details about his current imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or the “status” of other terror detainees there.

The judge issued the ruling after defense lawyers and prosecutors worked out an arrangement in which the defense compiled questions for Mohammed in the hopes that his responses might show that their client, Ghaith, was a low-level member of Al Qaeda, and not a top leader as prosecutors allege.

Mohammed is expected to start reviewing the questions later this week, with his reponses likely to follow sometime next week.

The Ghaith trial is set to begin Monday. But the defense has asked for a 45-day delay in order to determine whether Mohammed's responses might help their case. Judge Kaplan has not yet ruled on the request for a postponement.

Richard.Serrano@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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