News / USA

US Terror Trials Face Major Challenges

A photo of alleged Sep 11, 2001 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed soon after he was arrested (file photo)
A photo of alleged Sep 11, 2001 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed soon after he was arrested (file photo)

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +

2011 will mark 10 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. While the alleged mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is in U.S. custody, it is not clear when and where he will be tried. One of the reasons is continued controversy over which court system, civilian or military, should be used to bring terrorism suspects to justice.  Some of the terrorism trials held so far have not settled the issue.

In January, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reversed his earlier support for a decision by the Obama Administration to try alleged 9/11 conspirators in the city's federal civilian court. Bloomberg said such trials would cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars in added security costs.

"There are places that would be less expensive for the taxpayers and less disruptive to New York City. For example, military bases away from central cities where it's easier to provide security at much less cost."

Republican members of Congress have been particularly critical of civilian terror trials, accusing the Obama administration of treating accused terrorists lightly by not seeking justice in military courts. Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions: "Civilian trials for terrorist combatants are not required by law, policy, history, treaty or plain justice. Yet this policy it appears still remains in effect or at least unsettled."

Attorney General Eric Holder has indicated the issue is indeed unsettled. "No final decision has been made about the forum in which Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and his co-defendants will be tried. As I said from the outset this is a very close call. It should be clear to everyone by now there are many legal, national security and practical factors that have to be considered here."

There have been no security breaches at any of the civilian terror trials that have taken place so far. The civilian approach to such cases appeared vindicated when a jury of New Yorkers found Pakistani neuroscientist Asfia Saddiqui guilty in September of shooting at FBI agents and soldiers after her arrest in Afghanistan. She was given an 86-year prison sentence. Two months later, though, jurors in the same court house acquitted accused terrorist Ahmed Ghailani of all but one of 285 counts against him in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and his native Tanzania.  

Columbia University Associate Law Professor Matthew Waxman said military tribunal convictions can be overturned on appeal, just like those in a civilian court. And he said sentencing in such tribunals is not necessarily stricter.

"We've certainly seen many civilian trials go to judgment in terrorism cases and impose very stiff sentences on terrorism suspects. And we've seen military commissions that have resulted in relatively short sentences," said Waxman.

As an example, Waxman points to the radical difference between the nine-month suspended sentence handed to Australian David Hicks by a U.S. military tribunal, and the 20-year sentence given to the so-called American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, by a civilian court. Both were arrested in Afghanistan, where they had joined the Taliban. A military tribunal also gave a five-and one-half-year sentence to Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a body guard and driver of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden - while Ahmed Ghailani faces a minimum 20-year sentence in a civilian court.

Meanwhile, there is no decision on when and where to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It's also possible, in fact, that he will be held indefinitely as an enemy combatant at the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Lower-level suspects, at the same time, may continue to face justice in civilian courts.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid