MIAMI — The Pentagon on Wednesday cleared the way for a death penalty trial for five Guantanamo Bay captives charged with engineering the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Retired Vice Adm. Bruce E. MacDonald, who is in charge of military commissions, signed off on the capital trial against alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, 46, and four accused co-conspirators.
The men face charges of terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy and murder in violation of the law of war, among other charges, in the system set up by President George W. Bush within months of the attack, and then modified by President Obama in 2009.
If convicted, they could be sentenced to death using a method to be decided by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta or his successor.
The charges accuse the five of organizing the attacks — including funding and training the 19 men who hijacked four commercial airliners on 9/11 and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa., killing 2,976 people.
"The Obama administration "is making a terrible mistake by prosecuting the most important terrorism trials of our time in a second-tier system of justice," said Anthony Romero, the group's executive director. He said the war court was "set up to achieve easy convictions and hide the reality of torture, not to provide a fair trial."
"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," he said.
All five men were interrogated by the CIA in secret overseas prisons — Mohammed was water-boarded 183 times, according to declassified CIA documents — before their 2006 transfer to Guantanamo. Once in Cuba, he bragged to a panel of U.S. military officers that he was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks "from A to Z."
The chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, has said that by law no evidence derived through torture can be used at a Guantanamo trial.
Source: PoliceOne.com, April 6, 2012