Holder announces federal trials for accused 9/11 conspirators

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] on Friday announced [transcript; press release] that the government will pursue federal charges against five men accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive]. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, Walid Bin Attash, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Al Hawsawi, all currently detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives], will be tried in a Manhattan district court by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia [official websites]. Holder said that he recommended that the men be tried in civilian court after a case-by-case review conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Defense (DOD) [official websites] according to a new protocol announced in July. Addressing concerns [NLJ op-ed] that the civilian court system would be unable to prosecute high-level terrorism cases, and that bringing the men to New York would pose a security risk, Holder said that he was "confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years."


The men have previously faced charges in military commissions [JURIST news archives] at the detention facility, but those proceedings were delayed in May and September after being suspended [JURIST reports] for 120 days in January. Saying that "it is important that we be able to use every forum possible to hold terrorists accountable for their actions," Holder also announced that five other men held in connection with the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole [official website; JURIST news archive] in Yemen will be tried by military commissions, which were amended [JURIST report] last month to ensure that due process rights were afforded to suspected terrorists.

Earlier this month, the US Senate [official website] voted 54-45 [roll call vote; JURIST report] to defeat an amendment [S AMDT 2669 materials] to an appropriations bill [HR 2847 materials] that would have prevented Guantanamo detainees accused of involvement in 9/11 from being tried in federal courts. In October, US President Barack Obama signed [JURIST report] into law the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010 [HR 2892 materials], which allows for Guantanamo Bay detainees to be transferred to the US for prosecution and, among other provisions, requires certain information about each transferred detainee to be disclosed to Congress including costs, legal rationales, and possible risks. The legislation came after Holder indicated that the Obama administration might miss its January deadline for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, echoing prior statements [JURIST reports] by top administration officials.


 

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