Prosecutors negotiating deal for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and 9/11 terrorists to avoid death penalty, report says

Guantánamo Bay could continue operating indefinitely if prosecutors agree to let accused terrorists serve life sentences at the notorious prison

Justin Vallejo
New York
Tuesday 15 March 2022 17:24 GMT
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Life at Guantanamo

The mastermind and four accomplices accused of orchestrating the September 11 terrorist attack could avoid the death penalty under a plea deal being negotiated by prosecutors, according to a report.

Quoting people with “knowledge of the discussions”, The New York Times reports that prosecutors opened talks with defence lawyers over guilty pleas from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants in exchange for life sentences.

Lead prosecutor Clayton G Trivett Jr opened the plea deal discussions in an email on 16 March, when the court was gathered in Guantánamo Bay, proposing discussions of “whether pretrial agreements are possible for all five cases,” the Times reported.

“While I cannot guarantee that we will come to terms over these next two weeks putting a concerted effort focused solely on possible agreements while we are all onboard Guantánamo, where your clients and teams are present, may be our best chance of at least determining if deals can be reached,” the email said.

Participants told the Times that the list of demands to agree to a guilty plea, sent by defence lawyers on Monday 15 March, began with the removal of the death penalty for all five men.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (AP)

As part of negotiations, prosecutors and defence attorneys need to agree on whether life sentences come with or without the possibility of parole. While Mohammed is the alleged ringleader behind the training and logistics for the 19 hijackers, his four co-defendants face lesser charges in the 2001 attack that killed almost 3,000 people.

Also at question will be where the five men serve out the life sentences; whether at Guantánamo, where they can pray and eat in groups, or in a US supermax, where inmates are held in solitary confinement for 23-hours a day. If prosecutors agree to keep them in Guantánamo Bay, the notorious prison could remain open indefinitely.

Any deal would be presented to the Pentagon for approval. If accepted, a jury of US military officers would be assembled to hear statements before issuing sentences. The interim chief prosecutor, George C Kraehe, and the chief defence counsel, Jackie L Thompson Jr, declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper.

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