Mohammed sang verses from the Quran, rejected his attorneys and told Judge Ralph Kohlmann, a Marine colonel, that he wants to represent himself at the war crimes trial.
The judge warned that he faces execution if convicted of organizing the attacks on America. But the former No. 3 leader of al-Qaida was insistent.
“Yes, this is what I wish, to be a martyr for a long time,” Mohammed declared. “I will, God willing, have this, by you.”
Mohammed and his four alleged co-conspirators each face death if convicted of war crimes including murder, conspiracy, attacking civilians and terrorism by hijacking planes to attack U.S. landmarks. The murder charges involve the deaths of 2,973 people at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania where passengers forced down their plane.
Their arraignment begins the highest-profile test yet of the military’s tribunal system, which faces an uncertain future. The Supreme Court is to rule this month on the rights of Guantanamo prisoners, potentially delaying or halting the proceedings.
The trial also carries some strategic risk, and the military is trying to minimize the chance that classified information that would endanger Americans will come out, including delaying closed-circuit video of the proceedings by 20 seconds.