'Mastermind' of 9/11 to face Guantanamo military trial

 

More than a decade after three hijacked airliners slammed into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, the way was cleared yesterday for the self-acclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four other men to face trial and possible execution.

Approval for the five men to be tried in a special military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay was given by a top official in the Pentagon who also confirmed that if found guilty they could be sentenced to death.

The men were transferred from secret overseas prisons to the US prison at Guantanamo in 2006. After Barack Obama took office, his administration moved to have them tried in a civil court in New York. After fierce and embarrassing opposition from Congress as well as local authorities, the plan was abandoned in favour of trying them at Guantanamo instead.

After all the delays, twists and turns, it now seems the five will be formally charged in the camp next month with the trial to begin soon afterwards. The other four defendants are Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, a Pakistani who is Mohammed's nephew; Ramzi Binalshibh and Walid bin Attash, both Yemenis; and Mustafa al-Hawsawi, a Saudi.

Although, the Obama administration has brought some significant reforms to military tribunals, such as excluding evidence gained under brutal treatment, civil rights activists argue still that they are intrinsically unfair.

At an early stage of the last attempt to try the men, Mohammed declared an intention to plead guilty, apparently willing to face the death penalty to die as a martyr. It is unclear if he will do so this time.

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