Panama City man wraps week of pre-trial hearings in Guantanamo

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GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (WJHG/WECP) - The 26th pre-trial hearing for the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators has ended.

Adam Arias (left) and John Salamone, both victims of the 9/11 terror attacks. Arias was a trader for Euro Brokers, Salamone a trader for Cantor Fitzgerald. Both were 37 years old.

It was a week filled with hours of witness testimony from former and current FBI agents, as the prosecution tried to build the argument that the United States was at war with Al Qaeda when they were attacked on 9/11. Two of the defense teams are saying there was no state of war, so the case was not subject to the war court Congress created to try the defendants.

That was just one issue discussed in a multitude of topics this week.

The week began with the five terror suspects in court, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, Ammar al Baluchi, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa Hawsawi. The five are being tried together, as co-conspirators.

But as the week went on, their presence dwindled. In the last two days of hearings, none of the five were present. Khalid Sheik Mohammed was present for only two. Panama City Resident Don Arias was one of eight 9/11 family members who traveled to view these proceedings. He says he's representing his brother who died in the Trade Towers.

"I will put myself through this crucible as often as I have to, to get justice for my brother," Arias said. "The longer this thing moves along, the longer it takes, the further we get from this event, it becomes less human, and it becomes less emotional for people."

Arias has been to these hearings before in Cuba. He put into words how he feels at the end of the week.

"I am emotionally spent," he said. "It's physically and emotionally taxing. It's a very full day, very full days of court, and then trying to digest all of the information. And then reconciling that against memories of my brother, and how I think things should evolve or turn out, and it's very frustrating as well."

Another family member, Michael Salamone, also lost his brother, John, in the attacks. John was a trader for Cantor Fitzgerald. He left behind three children.

Salamone describes the first moments of being in the courtroom this week, before the suspects.

“When I first saw them, and I went over and I got a close look, I got really emotional, on that first day," Salamone said. "It wasn’t T.V. anymore, it was real life. These were the guys that murdered, not only my brother but 3,000 other people’s brothers and sisters. There was no way to prepare for that.”

This week of hearings has been a detailed one, in comparison to hearings past. For the first time in the case, video of the events of September 11th was shown in the courtroom.

For Salamone, who has watched recordings of the Twin Towers burning many times, it was a rare chance to watch while the alleged planners looked on.

"I did I looked over, I wanted to see what their reaction was," Salamone said. "I don’t know what I thought they were going to do. Were they going to raise their arms and cheer? Make an outburst? They didn’t. In the small chance that they might actually put their head down and show remorse, but they also did not do that. That I saw."

The detainees sit inside the military courtroom, a snoop-proof facility inside Gitmo's Expeditionary Legal Complex, to the left of a table seating their team of defense lawyers. The media and 9/11 families sit in the rear of the courtroom, behind three layers of glass. They watch on a feed with a 40-second delay. In case any classified information is spilled in court, the judge has time to press a mute button to silence the feed.

Arias says he's confident in the prosecution's future in this case.

"We're going to win this case," Arias said. "It's going to take a very long time. And there's going to be a death penalty attached to it, and that's going to take an even longer time. But mark my words, I will be there. I will be there when that death penalty comes down."

The next pre-trial hearing for the alleged co-conspirators is expected to be in January of 2018.