Obama U-turn over trial of 9/11 'mastermind'

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-described mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Manhattan, will be tried by a military tribunal and not the US courts, the Obama administration conceded yesterday, in a capitulation to opponents and a reversal of its vow to rip up President George W Bush's system for handling terror suspects.

The move was greeted with disappointment among liberal campaigners and announced with unconcealed anger by President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder. He said: "Members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States, regardless of the venue."

Public and political opposition to holding the trial in lower Manhattan, near the site of the destroyed World Trade Centre, forced the attorney general to review his first decision, and no other venue proved acceptable. In the end, Congress voted to ban any money being spent on bringing Guantanamo detainees into the US.

"Those unwise and unwarranted restrictions undermine our counterterrorism efforts and could harm our national security," Mr Holder said, but the families of those killed on 11 September, 2001, have waited too long already for justice, and "it must not be delayed any longer".

The fate of Mr Mohammed's trial was the remaining loose end of a humiliating policy reversal for Mr Obama, whose global prestige has been significantly dented by the failure to undo the Bush administration's system of military tribunals for terror suspects and to close Guantanamo Bay – an extra-judicial US military prison on Cuban soil that had become a hated symbol in the Muslim world and an embarrassment to the US's liberal supporters. On his second day in office, Mr Obama ordered Guantanamo be closed within a year, but it proved impossible to implement.

Last month, after a two-year freeze on military tribunals at Guantanamo, the administration said they would be restarted and laid down the rules for holding some of the detainees inside the camp indefinitely.

In November 2009, Mr Holder announced that Mr Mohammed and four co-defendants would be tried in Manhattan over the 9/11 attacks which killed almost 3,000 people. The criminal case against the men was unsealed by the Justice department yesterday, ahead of Mr Holder's announcement, and has been dismissed. The other defendants now to be tried in a military tribunal are Ramzi Binalshibh and Walid bin Attash, both from Yemen; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, a Pakistani who is Mohammed's nephew; and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, a Saudi.

Republicans reacted with delight, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomed the reversal, saying the costs of providing security for the trial would have been prohibitive, and military tribunals were "nothing to be ashamed of". But the American Civil Liberties Union described the administration's "flip-flop" as "devastating for the rule of law".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee