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Americas

Alleged 9/11 mastermind to be tried in NY court, says US media

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-11-13

The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees will be sent to New York to face trial in a criminal court, according to US media reports.

The self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be sent from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre to face trial in a New York civilian court, according to US media reports.

Mohammed, along with four other detainees accused of helping to plot the attacks, will be tried by the US federal court system, according to the US daily, The Washington Post.

When asked about the reports during his visit to Japan on Friday, US President Barack Obama told reporters he was “absolutely convinced Khalid Sheik Mohammed will be subject to the most exacting demands of justice".

But he refused to divulge details of the reports, maintaining that the US Justice Department would make an announcement later on Friday, on what he called a "prosecutorial decision as well as a national security decision."

US Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to be the one to announce the decisions, according to US news reports.

Reporting from Washington, FRANCE 24’s Guillaume Meyer said the decision to send the five suspects to be tried in a US civilian court represents a major victory for Obama, who has made the closing of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility a top priority.

“It’s a victory for Obama because he’s starting to get them out of Guantanamo and of course Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is one of the most famous Guantanamo detainees at the moment,” said Meyer. “That makes a very public case in a very public victory for Obama.”

‘KSM’ or ‘one of history’s most infamous terrorists’

Commonly referred to by his initials “KSM” in US intelligence circles, Mohammed is said to have been al Qaeda’s number three when he was captured in Pakistan in March 2003.

US investigators into the 9/11 attacks describe him as “one of history’s most infamous terrorists”. According to them, Mohammed has claimed he was the mastermind from “A to Z” of the worst terrorist attack on US soil.

The other four suspects likely to face trial in a New York court include Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash and Mustapha al-Hawsawi.

White House counsel Gregory Craig, who had been charged with finding a way to close the prison, announced his resignation shortly after news of the five prisoner’s transfers emerged.

Craig, a veteran Washington hand who led the embattled effort to shut the controversial camp for terror suspects in Cuba, said in a letter to Obama he would step down as White House counsel on January 3.

"Greg Craig is a close friend and trusted adviser who tackled many tough challenges as White House counsel," said Obama, who announced in a statement that his personal attorney, Bob Bauer, would take over the key post.

‘The very place that suffered the worst of the 9/11 attacks’

Obama’s efforts to shut down the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba before Jan. 22, 2010 has been stymied by initial opposition from lawmakers reluctant to see detainees transferred to US soil.

Some of the detainees have already faced charges before US military commissions, which have been widely criticised by human rights groups for limiting defendants' rights.

Trying the five top suspects in New York however has raised fears that the trial would publicly expose US national security secrets and that the accused could face an emotional and hostile jury.

Selecting New York as a venue for the suspects’ trial, according to Meyer, sends a “very important symbol” for the American people. “This, after all, is where the attacks took place and to see those people being sent back to the US for a trial in the very place that suffered the worst of the 9/11 attacks will be a very important event,” said Meyer.

Date created : 2009-11-13

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