Holder Refers 9/11 Co-conspirators to Military Tribunal
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 4, 2011 The 9/11 co-conspirators will be tried by a military tribunal, Attorney General Eric Holder announced today.
This means the cases of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammed Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Al Hawsawi –- the alleged conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States -– will be referred to the Office of Military Commissions.
Navy Capt. John Murphy, chief prosecutor of the Office of Military Commissions, said that in light of the attorney general’s decision, his office intends to swear charges against the men in the near future. “I intend to recommend the charges be sent to a military commission for a joint trial,” he said in a written statement.
The trials will take place under the Military Commissions Act of 2009, and the captain stressed that just as in civilian trials, those accused are presumed innocent until their guilt is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
The men will be tried at the Expeditionary Legal Complex at Guantanamo Naval Station in Cuba.
Holder said that he believes the trials could have been held in New York or Virginia, but that Congress imposed restrictions on where the trial could be held, taking the decision from his hands.
“Those restrictions are unlikely to be repealed in the immediate future,” the attorney general said. “We simply cannot allow a trial to be delayed any longer for the victims of the 9/11 attacks or for their family members who have waited for nearly a decade for justice. I have talked to these family members on many occasions over the last two years. Like many Americans, they differ on where the 9/11 conspirators should be prosecuted, but there is one thing on which they all agree: We must bring the conspirators to justice.”
If charges are sworn, the convening authority –- retired Navy Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald -– would conduct a thorough review of the evidence supporting the charges, Defense Department officials said. It is MacDonald’s responsibility to make an independent determination as to the appropriate disposition of the charges. If he determines the evidence supports the charges and that referral to a military commission is appropriate, he would refer the charges.
At that point, a military judge would be detailed by the chief trial judge for military commissions, and the accused would be arraigned within 30 days of the referral.
DOD is committed to conducting military commissions that are fair, credible and transparent, while simultaneously protecting U.S. national security, Pentagon officials said. Prosecutors from both the Defense and Justice departments have been working together throughout this process.