Six Charged with Murder and Terrorism over 9/11; Guantanamo Bay Detainees May Face Death Penalty for 'War Crime'

Article excerpt

Byline: Wesley Johnson

SIX Guantanamo Bay detainees were charged with murder, terrorism and violating the laws of war over the September 11 terror attacks and military prosecutors will seek the death penalty, the Pentagon said yesterday.

Nearly3,000 people were killed in the attacks in which hijacked planes were flown into buildings in New York and Washington more than six years ago.

US prosecutors will seek the death penalty for what they now term a war crime, but the final decision will rest with judge Susan Crawford, the convening authority for military commissions.

If sent for trial, the six men would be the first detainees to be brought before a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay in connection with the attacks.

Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann told a Pentagon press briefing that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, one of those charged, was the alleged mastermind and proposed the original concept to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden "as early as 1996".

He was among 15 so-called high-value detainees who were held at length by the CIA in secret overseas prisons before being handed over to the military in 2006.

Yesterday, Brig Gen Hartmann said Mohammed obtained "approval and funding from Osama bin Laden for the attacks, overseeing the entire operation, and training the hijackers in all aspects of the operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan".

Previously, the Pentagon has said that Mohammed confessed to his role in the attacks, saying, "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z."

This confession came after he was interrogated, which included the controversial technique of water boarding which some believe constitutes torture.

Brig Gen Hartmann said, "The question of what evidence will be admitted, whether water boarding or otherwise, will be decided in the courts in front of a judge."

He went on: "Let me be clear, we are a nation of law and not of men.

"The accused will have his opportunity to have his day in court."

He said the legal system provided an automatic right to appeal if any of the defendants were found guilty after a trial.

"We're going to give them rights that are virtually identical to the rights we provide to our military members - our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who fight in the battlefield and who I think we can all agree are our national treasure," he said.

Five other men - Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi and Mohammed al-Kahtani - were also charged. …