Twelve years after September 11, Pakistani mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four suspected co-conspirators have been ordered to stand trial before a Guantanamo war crimes tribunal, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
The five could face the death penalty if convicted of their charges which include terrorism, hijacking, conspiracy and murder in violation of the law of war.
Although this is welcome news, it would have been good to see the suspects tried by the civil justice system instead of putting them through a military kangaroo court.
Commenting on the imminent trial, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Executive Director Anthony Romero told Reuters that, “whatever verdict comes out of the Guantanamo military commissions will be tainted by an unfair process and the politics that wrongly pulled these cases from federal courts, which have safely and successfully handled hundreds of terrorism trials."
Not only will Mohammed’s conviction carry zero legitimacy, it also denies U.S citizens the right to bear witness against him in public court. Clearly, he has already been sentenced to death and the “trial” is nothing more than a formality. Mohammed will be executed and America will have lost its one chance at finally getting real justice.
On April 4, 2011, the Obama administration abandoned efforts to try the case before a civilian court as promised. But this attempt hit solid opposition in Congress, where officials warned about the security threat and claimed the cost of protecting the venue could be as much as $1 billion. Congress eventually blocked the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to the United States for trial or any other reason.
The trial will renew memories of the deadliest attack ever carried out on U.S. soil and one that pushed the country into the war against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
The trial will remind voters about the killing of fugitive Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden last year, one of the high points in President Barack Obama’s presidency. It will also refresh memories of his 2008 election campaign promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
All five defendants were held in secret CIA prisons before being sent to Guantanamo in 2006. The CIA has accepted subjecting Mohammed to a simulated drowning technique known as water boarding during his interrogation, and other defendants have said they were abused.
The tribunals, which have evolved through several revisions, do not accept evidence obtained through coercion.
Mohammed and his co-accused have been alleged to have planned and executed the September 11, 2001, hijacked airliner attacks that killed 2,976 people in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The attacks were part of a conspiracy involving Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other members of his group.
The decision to refer the case to a tribunal means the five will have to be arraigned before a military judge at Guantanamo within 30 days of their formal notification that the case will go to trial.