A Terrorist's Defense: Fighting for Men Most Americans Hate

Gitmo defense lawyers reveal the personal relationships forged with al Qaeda accused.

In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, third from left, wearing a camouflage vest and sitting at a defense table with his legal team, U.S. Army Capt. Jason Wright, left, and U.S. Marine Corps Major Derek Poteet, addresses judge U.S. Army Col. James Pohl during the third day of the Military Commissions pretrial hearing against the five Guantanamo prisoners accused of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012.

U.S. Army Capt. Jason Wright, far left, is seen at another pretrial hearing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with Khlaid Sheikh Mohammed, third from left, on Oct. 17.

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"Not only are we trying to ensure there is a fair trial, and that the presumption of innocence remains inviolate, we're also trying to seek some measure of accountability for what happened to these men, for what our government did, to Mr. Mohammed in particular," says Wright. "To try to put on a mitigation case, to tell his life story, his life history that includes three and a half years of torture."

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LISTEN: Reporter Paul Shinkman discusses the trial on WTOP.com.
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"It pains me as an American, before I was even asked to join the Office of the Chief Defense Counsel, it pains me that my government thought it was appropriate to torture for my freedoms," he says.

Everyone is entitled to have a defense, Wright adds.

"The remarkable thing is I wear this uniform, and I get to be as outspoken as I need to be on issues that affect our government, on issues that affect decision-making in this place," says Ruiz. "I think that's remarkable. I think that should be celebrated."

This makes it easier to become an advocate for his client in court, he says. Each component—defense, prosecution, or and judge—should work against one another to produce a better result, he says.

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