U.S. Will Seek Death for 9/11 Suspects

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CBNNews.com  - The United States will seek the death penalty against six Guantanamo Bay detainees charged in the 9/11 terror attacks.

The detainees were formally charged Monday by the Pentagon for murder and war crimes.

The six men includes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the attacks in which hijacked planes were flown into buildings in New York and Washington. Another hijacked plane crashed in the fields of western Pennsylvania.

"These charges allege a long term, highly sophisticated, organized plan by al-Qaeda to attack the United States of America," Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser to the tribunal system, told reporters Monday.

He added that the charges have been sworn "against six individuals alleged to be responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks" on Sept. 11, 2001 and killed nearly 3,000 people.

The military will recommend that the six be tried together before a military tribunal.

A Complicated Case?

Some legal analysts say the case could be complicated because Mohammamed was waterboarded during his interrogation. It is a technique critics call torture.

Asked what impact that will have on the case, Hartmann said it will be up to the military judge to determine what evidence is allowed.

The other five men being charged are: Mohammed al-Qahtani, the man officials have labeled the 20th hijacker; Ramzi Binalshibh, said to have been the main intermediary between the hijackers and leaders of Al Qaeda; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, known as Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been identified as Mohammed's lieutenant for the 2001 operation; al-Baluchi's assistant, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi; and Waleed bin Attash, a detainee known as Khallad, who investigators say selected and trained some of the hijackers.

Defense lawyers still criticize the military justice system for its secrecy.

But Hartmann said that the defendants will get the same rights as U.S. soldiers tried under the military justice system, including the right to remain silent, call witnesses, and know the evidence against him. Appeals can go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The processes that we have before the military commissions in many ways parallel the military justice system, which I think is very well regarded by the defense community as giving very tremendous rights to defendants," said Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann.

Hartmann called the charges "only allegations," and said the accused will remain innocent until proven guilty.

The decision to seek the death penalty also is likely to draw criticism from within the international community. A number of countries, including U.S. allies, have said they would object to the use of capital punishment for their nationals held at Guantanamo.

The military tribunal system requires that a panel of 12 unanimously find the defendant guilty for capital punishment cases, Hartmann said.

Trials to Be Held at Guantanamo

The trials will be held in a specially constructed court at Guantanamo. The courtroom will allow lawyers, journalists and some others to be present. However, only relatives of 9/11 victims and others will be able to watch the trial through closed-circuit broadcasts.

It could be months or longer before trials begin for the six 9/11 defendants. With the appeals process, it would likely take a while before executions would be possible, once any convictions are determined.

Source: The Associated Press

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