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9/11 conspirators to be tried in New York

November 14, 2009 21:35 IST

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks along with four other co-plotters will be tried in a New York court, a top Obama Administration official has said.

US Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday said prosecutors would seek death penalty against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects who are held at Guantanamo Bay but will be moved to a New York prison ahead of their trial.

"I am announcing that the Department of Justice will pursue prosecution in federal court of the five individuals accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks," he said.

Besides Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the other four are Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak bin 'Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi.

"After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice," he said, adding that they would be tried in a court in New York, blocks away from where the Al-Qaeda hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Centre.

"These were extraordinary crimes, and so we will seek maximum penalties. Federal rules allow us to seek the death penalty for capital offenses, and while will we -- we will review the evidence and circumstances following established protocols, I fully expect to direct prosecutors to seek the death penalty against each of the alleged 9/11 conspirators," he said.

For the many Americans who lost friends and relatives in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and on the USS Cole, nothing can bring back those loved ones, he said.

"But they deserve the opportunity to see the alleged plotters of those attacks held accountable in open court, an opportunity that has too long been delayed. The announcement marks a significant step forward in our efforts to close Guantanamo and to bring to justice those individuals who have conspired to attack our nation and our interests abroad," Holder said.

When asked why these detainees are being tried in New York, Holder said that is something that typically happens in the criminal law.

Holder said he has access to information that has not been publicly released that gives him great confidence that they will be successful in the prosecution of these cases in federal court.

New York, he said, has a long history of trying these kinds of cases.

"The person who bombed the World Trade Centre, it was back I guess in 1993, was tried there," he said.

"New York has a hardened system. We have talked to the Marshals Service there. An analysis was done about the capabilities that exist in New York. And I'm quite confident that we can safely hold people there, that we can protect the people who surround the courthouse area, and bring these cases successfully," he said.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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