US Sends Five 9/11 Suspects to Trial Before Military Tribunal

Posted April 4th, 2012 at 4:20 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. military has formally ordered a military tribunal for five suspected al-Qaida militants, believed to have planned the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States that killed nearly 3.000 people.

Pentagon officials said Wednesday the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four other alleged co-conspirators are accused of terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder and other charges. They could face the death penalty, if found guilty.

In a statement Wednesday, the U.S. Defense Department said the defendants are due in court within 30 days. The trial will be held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Base, Cuba.

The Pentagon says that, in addition to their defense council, it has provided the five with attorneys with specialized knowledge and experience in death penalty cases in order to assist their defense.

But human rights groups again slammed the use of military tribunals as opposed to civilian courts. U.S. President Barack Obama initially had pledged to try the accused in a civilian court, but he reversed course last year after U.S. lawmakers passed restrictions prohibiting the transfer of terror detainees to the United States.

Laura Pittner, a lawyer and counterterrorism adviser for Human Rights Watch told VOA Wednesday the system in Guantanamo is not in line with any fair trial justice standards. She said that:

“Coerced evidence is still allowed in certain circumstances and torture can seep in to some of the evidence that will be admissable, so it will taint any verdict that has arrived there.”

Pittner said she believes this is unfortunate, considering there is a viable option in the U.S. federal court system.

In 2008, Mohammed said he wanted to plead guilty to all charges against him.