Prosecutors seek testimony from Sept. 11 victims' kin in hearing

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FORT MEADE, Md., May 31 (Reuters) - U.S. government prosecutors asked a military judge on Tuesday to let 10 relatives of Sept. 11, 2001, victims testify in open court during a pre-trial hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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Five men face the death penalty in the case, including Pakistan-born Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who took credit for masterminding the hijacked plane attacks in 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Civilian prosecutor Edward Ryan said about 400 relatives have asked to testify. He told Judge Army Colonel James Pohl that his team would like to question the first 10 in October, many of them the elderly parents of victims.

Related: New York honors those lost in 9/11:

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Prosecutors seek testimony from Sept. 11 victims' kin in hearing
NEW YORK, USA - SEPTEMBER 11: Loved ones pay their respects at the 9/11 memorial for those killed on the 14th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks at the site where two of four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York, USA on September 11, 2015. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Army Sgt. Edwin Morales prays during a ceremony at the World Trade Center site in New York on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. With a moment of silence and somber reading of names, victims' relatives began marking the 14th anniversary of Sept. 11 in a subdued gathering Friday at ground zero.(AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith)
Retired New York City firefighter Joseph McCormick visits the South Pool prior to a ceremony at the World Trade Center site in New York on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. With a moment of silence and somber reading of names, victims' relatives began marking the 14th anniversary of Sept. 11 in a subdued gathering Friday at ground zero. (AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith)
NEW YORK, USA - SEPTEMBER 11: Loved ones pay their respects at the 9/11 memorial for those killed on the 14th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks at the site where two of four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York, USA on September 11, 2015. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - SEPTEMBER 11: Loved ones pay their respects at the 9/11 memorial for those killed on the 14th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks at the site where two of four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York, USA on September 11, 2015. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - SEPTEMBER 11: Loved ones pay their respects at the 9/11 memorial for those killed on the 14th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks at the site where two of four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York, USA on September 11, 2015. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - SEPTEMBER 11: Loved ones pay their respects at the 9/11 memorial for those killed on the 14th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks at the site where two of four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York, USA on September 11, 2015. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: A New York City firefighter participates in a memorial service for firefighters killed on September 11, 2001 at the New York City Fire Museum on September 11, 2015 in New York City. Three hundred and forty three firefighters, some viewed on the pictured memorial wall, were killed on September 11. Throughout the nation today people are holding somber gatherings and memorial events to reflect on the day 14 years ago that resulted in the loss of nearly 3,000 people. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - SEPTEMBER 11: Loved ones pay their respects at the 9/11 memorial for those killed on the 14th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks at the site where two of four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York, USA on September 11, 2015. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - SEPTEMBER 11: Loved ones pay their respects at the 9/11 memorial for those killed on the 14th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks at the site where two of four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York, USA on September 11, 2015. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - SEPTEMBER 11: Loved ones pay their respects at the 9/11 memorial for those killed on the 14th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks at the site where two of four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York, USA on September 11, 2015. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Origami crane is left at the 9/11 memorial before the ceremony to commemorate the 14th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks, on September 11, 2015 in New York. AFP PHOTO/KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: New York City firefighters participate in a memorial service for firefighters killed on September 11, 2001 at the New York City Fire Museum on September 11, 2015 in New York City. Three hundred and forty three firefighters, some viewed on the pictured memorial wall, were killed on September 11. Throughout the nation today people are holding somber gatherings and memorial events to reflect on the day 14 years ago that resulted in the loss of nearly 3,000 people. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Family members of a 9/11 victim embraces each other as they attend the 14th Anniversary ceremony of the terrorist attacks at the 9/11 memorial on September 11, 2015 in New York. AFP PHOTO/KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Johnell Santiago plays Amazing Grace on a street in lower Manhattan at the time of the attacks on September 11, 2015 in New York City. Santiago, who is from Waterbury, Connecticut felt the need to come to New York as a patriot. Throughout the nation today people are holding somber gatherings and memorial events to reflect on the day 14 years ago that resulted in the loss of nearly 3,000 people. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Lower Manhattan is viewed on September 11, 2015 in New York City. Throughout the nation today people are holding somber gatherings and memorial events to reflect on the day 14 years ago that resulted in the loss of nearly 3,000 people. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - SEPTEMBER 11: Loved ones pay their respects at the 9/11 memorial for those killed on the 14th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks at the site where two of four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers in New York, USA on September 11, 2015. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Riders participate in the 9/11 Memorial Motorcycle Ride in New York on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The ride pays tribute to the first responders who led recovery efforts during and following the September 11th terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith)
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He noted that two potential witnesses "wanted very much to testify," but have already died.

Ryan said one witness would be Lee Hanson from Easton, Connecticut. His granddaughter was the youngest victim in the attacks.

Hanson's son, Peter, was flying with his wife and 2-year-old daughter on United Airlines Flight 175 when it was hijacked and crashed into the South Tower of New York's World Trade Center.

"During the hijacking, Peter called our witness ... and described to him what was going on inside the plane," said Ryan. "That's about the only direct evidence we have from someone on Flight 175."

Defense attorneys opposed the request, saying it was inappropriate to depose the witnesses in an open hearing because the remarks could influence potential jurors.

They suggested the statements instead be videotaped and saved as potential evidence for the trial.

"What the government is asking to do is have a public exposition of the tragedy that these individuals experienced, and they're asking to do that in a way where future panel members and jurors can have exposure to it," said Cheryl Bormann, attorney for Walid bin Attash, a suspected al Qaeda training camp leader from Yemen.

There was no indication on when Pohl would rule on this motion.

Other motions scheduled for the week-long hearing at the Navy base in Cuba include requests by defense lawyers for evidence of how the five suspects were treated at secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons.

Proceedings have been plagued by repeated delays, and the case is likely years from going to trial.

Seven relatives of Sept. 11 victims are in Guantanamo Bay this week to attend the hearing. Reuters monitored the proceedings over closed-circuit television from a media center at Fort Meade, outside Washington.

The case is among a half dozen against Guantanamo inmates. There are 80 prisoners still at the Cuban base, mostly from Yemen. Almost 800 inmates have been transferred as U.S. President Barack Obama tries to fulfill his pledge to close the offshore prison before he leaves office in January. (Editing by Ian Simpson and Sandra Maler)

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