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

    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

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora