New Yorkers Express Mixed Reaction to 9/11 Terror Trials
New Yorkers Express Mixed Reaction to 9/11 Terror Trials

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New Yorkers had mixed reactions Friday to the news that the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on The World Trade Center and four of his co-conspirators would get trials in a New York federal court. The courthouse stands just blocks from where the attacks took place, killing nearly 3,000 people.

The five alleged terrorists who have been in U.S. custody at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prison will face justice in a civilian court before a jury, not in a military tribunal.

Commuters passing through New York's busy Pennsylvania Station on Friday appeared surprised by the announcement.  This man thought the decision to bring the alleged plotter back, to the site of the attacks, was unbelievable.
"These are uniformed combatants and they should be tried in a military court not here in a civilian court," said one. "It's totally crazy."

But another man saw it differently.

"This is a country based on democracy and you have to have a fair trial especially if you are a criminal," he said.

Asked if he was concerned about the prospect of trying alleged terrorists in New York City, he said he is.

"Terrified," he admitted. "This [NY] seems to be the target unfortunately, and it worries me a lot."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement that he supports the Obama administration's decision to prosecute the 9/11 terrorists in New York. He said he is confident that the city's police department and federal authorities will be able to expertly handle the security required for such a trial.

The mayor added that New York has hosted such trials in the past and is ready to assist the court in the administration of justice.

But this New Yorker said giving Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other alleged conspirators the benefits of American justice is just wrong.

"He should not be tried like a regular American criminal," he said. "These are wartime crimes.  He has rights as a wartime criminal that's it."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday that the five suspects would likely be tried in one trial and  prosecutors would likely seek the death penalty.

The American Civil Liberties Union told VOA that while it is pleased with the decision to bring these men to a civilian court, it believes the death penalty in any situation is unconstitutional. Ben Wizner is an attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project.

"I think in this case in particular, it is an unwise decision because we already know that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other confessed perpetrators of the 9/11 crimes have sought martyrdom, they have asked for the death penalty, they would like to be immortalized as warriors against the United States," said Ben Wizner. "And to execute them would be to give them what they are seeking."

But legal experts say, it could be months, if not years, before these men stand trial.