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U.S. to seek death penalty for 6 Gitmo detainees

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States will seek the death penalty against six Guantanamo Bay detainees who are suspects in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an Air Force general said Monday.

The government will submit criminal charges against the detainees, who include alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Brig Gen. Thomas Hartmann said during a Pentagon news conference. The government hopes to try the men together, he said.

All six have been charged with conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, terrorism and material support of terrorism, said the general who is serving as legal adviser to the military commissions trying the detainees. Four of the suspects will also be charged with hijacking, he said.

The 169 charges allege a long-term, highly sophisticated plan by al Qaeda to attack the United States of America, Hartmann said. Watch how the trials could prove to be difficult

There will be no secret trials, Hartmann said. We will make every effort to make everything open.

The exception will be when classified information is presented that could compromise national security, he said.

All six suspects are accused of helping plan the September 11 attacks in which hijackers flew two jets into the World Trade Center in New York and another jet into the Pentagon in Washington. Another hijacked plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, 2,974 people were killed in the attacks, not including the 19 hijackers.

Charged along with Mohammed are: Mohammed al-Qahtani, the so-called 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks; Ramzi bin al-Shibh, accused of being an intermediary between the hijackers and al Qaeda leaders; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, who has been identified as Mohammed’s lieutenant; Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, one of the financial backers of the attacks; and Walid bin Attash, who is accused of selecting and training some hijackers.

Mohammed, bin Attash, al-Shibh and Ali will be additionally charged with the offense of hijacking or hazarding an aircraft, Hartmann said.

Military prosecutors will submit the charges along with a request to seek the death penalty in the cases, and Judge Susan Crawford will have to approve the charges and the request, defense officials told CNN.

A military commission would thereafter be held at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. If a judge approves the charges, it will mark the first time that Guantanamo detainees have been charged in the September 11 attacks.

Within 30 days of the judge’s approval, the detainees will hear the charges against them and enter pleas, Hartmann said. Within another 90 days, the military panel will be assembled and motions and discovery will ensue, he said.

We are going to give them rights that are virtually identical to our military members, Hartmann said.

About 380 foreign nationals are being held at Guantanamo. The detainees’ lawyers have repeatedly complained that their clients are being denied due process.

The U.S. Supreme Court also has twice expressed reservations about how the government handles detainees at the U.S. naval base.

In 2006, the high court struck down the Bush administration’s use of military tribunals to try terror suspects, saying the process was unconstitutional because the system did not allow prisoners to challenge their detention.

Congress last year passed the Military Commissions Act, which provided terror suspects with a limited right to appeal any conviction. It also reduced the jurisdiction of federal courts.

The commissions were specifically established to try crimes related to the war on terror. Not much is known about the commissions system. The detainees will have lawyers, and they will be allowed to see at least some of the evidence against them.

However, several legal and political challenges remain, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said it could be five years before the trials are complete.

One thing’s clear about Guantanamo is that the next president is going to have to resolve this, Toobin said.

Bob Hughes, whose 30-year-old son died in the World Trade Center, said he was disappointed with the slow legal process, but he applauded the government’s efforts to impose the death penalty on any conspirators.

Anyone involved that helped these people get to America to do what they did, they definitely deserve the death penalty, he said.

One legal issue expected to stall the process is whether prosecutors will be able to use confessions or other information gleaned using controversial interrogation techniques.

Hartmann said Monday that a military judge will determine whether information obtained during interrogations is admissible.

On Tuesday, CIA Director Michael Hayden for the first time publicly confirmed Mohammed and two other terror suspects were subjected to a technique called waterboarding, which is intended to simulate drowning.

The technique was used on top al Qaeda detainees in the aftermath of the attacks to help us prevent catastrophic loss of life of Americans or their allies, Hayden said.

After Monday’s announcement, Hayden, in a memo obtained by CNN, wrote CIA employees to laud the decision to try the detainees and called it a crucial milestone on the road to justice for the victims of 9/11.
U.S. to seek death penalty for 6 Gitmo detainees – found here.

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February 11, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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