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Protesters Decry Decision to Use US Court for 9/11 Trial'

  • Victoria Cavaliere

Demonstrators say suspects should face trial in military court

Protesters have gathered outside a federal courthouse in New York City to denounce the Obama administration's decision to try the five alleged plotters of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States in the civilian court system. Both survivors of Sept. 11 attacks and concerned New Yorkers at the rally say the terror suspects are war criminals and their trials should be held in military court.

The demonstration was held outside the Manhattan courthouse where confessed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators will be on trial.

About 100 vocal opponents braved freezing rain Saturday to urge Attorney General Eric Holder to reverse course and try the men in front of a military tribunal.

Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of the plane that struck the Pentagon, told the crowd she believes the trials will become a platform for the terror suspects to espouse extremist ideology. "They are going to use that courthouse to put our country on trial, to mark the victims, to exalt in the pain of the families, to disgrace the judge to disgrace our country. This is not an ennobling plan," she said.

Jane Calo, a resident who attended the rally, said she doesn't fear for her safety but believes that the five terror suspects are war criminals and should not be extended the same legal rights and protections as American citizens. "I think this is outrageous, I think we should speak up. These are criminals these are terrorists and they should be tried in the tribunal court in the army…not here, not in civilian court," she said.

For his part, Mr. Holder has noted that many survivors of the 9/11 attacks support holding the trials in Manhattan.

He also argues that there are fewer differences between the rules for federal court and the military panels, including the protection of sensitive information, than some critics realize.