Pentagon ready to resume 9/11 trial
The Pentagon has said it is ready to resume a trial at Guantanamo Bay for the acknowledged mastermind of the September 11 attacks and four other men.
The moves comes more than two years after US President Barack Obama halted the case in an ultimately failed effort to prosecute them in a civilian court.
A Department of Defence legal official, known as the convening authority, has approved trying the five together on capital charges that include terrorism and murder, making them eligible for the death penalty if convicted. They are expected to be arraigned in May before a military judge at the US base in Cuba.
Prosecutors had filed the charges last May and there was little doubt that the convening authority would refer the case to a military tribunal for trial. But lawyers had hoped that two of the men would be tried separately on non-capital charges because they are accused of relatively minor roles in the plot.
The five being charged include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who admitted during a military hearing to being the "mastermind" of the terrorist attacks that sent hijacked planes slamming into New York's World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people in 2001.
Mohammed had said at the start of his first trial that he intended to plead guilty and his four co-defendants indicated they would abandon their defence as well. But after a series of pretrial hearings the case was put on hold when the administration decided it wanted to try them in civilian court in the US.
Congress fought the administration's effort to transfer Guantanamo prisoners to the US, forcing Mr Obama to reverse course on trying prisoners in civilian courts and preventing him from closing the prison. Defence lawyers and human rights groups say the system favours the prosecution.
"The Obama administration is making a terrible mistake by prosecuting the most important terrorism trials of our time in a second-tier system of justice," said Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The military commissions were set up to achieve easy convictions and hide the reality of torture, not to provide a fair trial."
The other four prisoners are Waleed bin Attash, who allegedly ran an al Qaida training camp in Afghanistan and researched flight simulators and timetables, and Ramzi Binalshibh, who allegedly helped find flight schools for the hijackers.
The third is Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, who is accused of helping nine of the hijackers travel to the United States and sending them 120,000 US dollars for expenses and flight training; the fourth Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, who is accused of helping the hijackers get money and western clothing.