"I can't imagine any scenario where this thing gets wrapped up in six months," Connell said.
Defendants in what is known as a military commission typically do not enter a plea during their arraignment. Instead, the judge reads the charges, makes sure the accused understand their rights and then moves on to procedural issues. Lawyers for the men said they were prohibited by secrecy rules from disclosing their clients' intentions.
Harrington, representing Binalshibh, who has said at one hearing that he was proud of the Sept. 11 attacks, said he did not think that any of the defendants would plead guilty, notwithstanding their earlier statements.
Army Capt. Jason Wright, one of Mohammed's Pentagon-appointed lawyers, declined to comment on the case.
Before the hearing, family members at Guantanamo said they were grateful for the chance to see a case they believe has been delayed too long.
Suzanne Sisolak of Brooklyn, whose husband Joseph was killed in his office in the trade center's north tower, said she is not concerned about the ultimate outcome as long as the five prisoners do not go free.
"They can put them in prison for life. They can execute them," Sisolak said. "What I do care about is that this does not happen again. They need to be stopped."
The arraignment for the five comes more than three years after President Barack Obama's failed effort to try the suspects in a federal civilian court and close the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced in 2009 that Mohammed and his co-defendants would be tried blocks from the site of the destroyed trade center in downtown Manhattan, but the plan was shelved after New York officials cited huge costs to secure the neighborhood and family opposition to trying the suspects in the U.S.
Congress then blocked the transfer of any prisoners from Guantanamo to the U.S., forcing the Obama administration to refile the charges under a reformed military commission system.
New rules adopted by Congress and Obama forbid the use of testimony obtained through cruel treatment or torture. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor, said the commission provides many of the same protections that defendants would get in civilian court. "I'm confident that this court can achieve justice and fairness," he said.
But human rights groups and the defense lawyers say the reforms have not gone far enough and that restrictions on legal mail and the overall secret nature of Guantanamo and the commissions makes it impossible to provide an adequate defense.
They argue that the U.S. has sought to keep the case in the military commission to prevent disclosure of the harsh treatment of prisoners such as Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times and subjected to other measures that some have called torture.
Mohammed, a Pakistani citizen who grew up in Kuwait and attended college in Greensboro, North Carolina, has admitted to military authorities that he was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks "from A to Z," as well as about 30 other plots, and that he personally killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Mohammed was captured in 2003 in Pakistan.
Binalshibh was allegedly chosen to be a hijacker but couldn't get a U.S. visa and ended up providing assistance such as finding flight schools. Bin Attash, also from Yemen, allegedly ran an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan and researched flight simulators and timetables. Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi is a Saudi accused of helping the hijackers with money, Western clothing, traveler's checks and credit cards. Al-Aziz Ali, a Pakistani national and nephew of Mohammed, allegedly provided money to the hijackers.
Associated Press writer Verena Dobnik in New York contributed to this report.
- Colorado Mormons join other faiths in...
- Washington Post writer: Mitt Romney lost...
- Pew study: News media inserted bias into gay...
- Video: Miss Utah USA flubs answer at Miss USA...
- NPR writer 'slightly' defends Miss Utah USA's...
- Parents rally after Canadian elementary...
- Cap'n Crunch refutes claims he's not actually...
- Issues plaguing black families in the...
- Pew study: News media inserted bias... 51
- Video: Miss Utah USA flubs answer at... 26
- Parents rally after Canadian elementary... 23
- New York English teacher assigns... 16
- Washington Post writer: Mitt Romney... 16
- Officials: NSA programs broke terrorist... 15
- IRS official: Washington scrutinized... 15
- NSA director says surveillance programs... 14