News

    US To Try 9/11 Suspects In Civilian Court

    US To Try 9/11 Suspects In Civilian Court
    US To Try 9/11 Suspects In Civilian Court

    U.S. officials announced Friday that the alleged mastermind of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will face a civilian trial in a courthouse in New York City, just blocks away from the site of what was the World Trade Center.  The decision to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators in a federal civilian court represents a major shift in legal approach by the administration of President Barack Obama. 

    The announcement was made at a news conference in Washington by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

    "After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September 11th will finally face justice," said Eric Holder. "They will be brought to New York, to New York, to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks from where the twin towers once stood."

    Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other four alleged co-conspirators are being held at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The Bush administration had intended to try them in military tribunals, so the decision by Holder to try them in civilian courts represents a major shift in legal strategy by the Obama administration.

    President Obama was asked about the case during a joint news conference with the Japanese prime minister in Tokyo.

    "I am absolutely convinced that Khalid Sheik Mohammed will be subject to the most exacting demands of justice," said President Obama. "The American people insist on it. My administration will insist on it."

    Holder also told reporters he intends to seek the death penalty for the five alleged 9/11 plotters.

    "These were extraordinary crimes and so we will seek maximum penalties," he said. "I fully expect to direct prosecutors to seek the death penalty against each of the alleged 9/11 conspirators."

    Holder also announced that five other detainees now being held at Guantanamo will face military commissions, including the alleged mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.

    The decision to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators in civilian courts was welcomed by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, but criticized by some congressional Republicans as irresponsible and misguided.

    This is Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York:

    "This is one of the worst decisions any president has ever made," said Peter King. "By bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and these other murderers to the United States, the president has given them legal rights that they wouldn't have otherwise."

    There were also strong reactions from relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks.  Gricel Moyer's son was a New York City firefighter who died in the attack on the World Trade Center.

    "I think it is important that it happens in New York," said Gricel Moyer. "That is where the site was of 9-11 and that is where they should be brought to trial.  I hope that they get hung and that I am there to watch it."

    Beth Weinstein's brother was also a firefighter who perished in the attack.

    "While it is good to see someone pay for this crime, it will never bring back the Twin Towers, it will not bring back the people who were lost,  An 'eye for an eye' doesn't really work," he said. "There aren't enough eyes."

    Trying the 9/11 case in civilian courts also presents some legal challenges, says CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen.

    "The decision is a vote of confidence in the federal courts and in civilian prosecutors, and there are still some safeguards in place to ensure that Mohammed doesn't turn the trial into a religious or a political showpiece," said Andrew Cohen. "There also are ways in which the feds [prosecutors] can protect their classified information and still use it at trial, and I think that is why they went in this direction."

    Critics argue that the rules of evidence in military tribunals favor the prosecution, and would have been a better alternative to assure conviction.

    In addition, defense attorneys are sure to make an issue of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's treatment as a detainee, including the use of a simulated drowning technique known as water boarding.

    Juan Zarate served as a counter-terrorism official in the George W. Bush administration.

    "This could be a very messy and long trial with questions about how he was detained, the techniques used to extract information from him, and then whether or not any of the things that he has said since are tainted by the nature of his prior detention," said Juan Zarate.

    Attorney General Holder says the prosecution decisions announced Friday are part of a larger process to close down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay as ordered by President Obama.

    But Holder said it will be difficult for the administration tol meet the deadline it set of January 22 of next year to close the facility because it has been hard to relocate some of those approved for release.
     


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.