WASHINGTON — The United States Wednesday unveiled charges against the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, along with four alleged plotters, vowing to seek the death penalty in a long-delayed military trial.
Mohammed and the other accused conspirators have been held for years at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, amid a legal and political battle in the United States over how and where to prosecute them.
“The charges allege that the five accused are responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York and Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., resulting in the killing of 2,976 people,” the Defense Department said in a statement.
“The convening authority referred the case to a capital military commission, meaning that, if convicted, the five accused could be sentenced to death.”
The 46-year-old Mohammed, along with Walid Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd Al-Aziz Ali — also known as Ammar Al-Baluchi — and Mustapha Ahmed Al-Hawsawi are due to appear in court for arraignment proceedings within 30 days, the Pentagon said.
The joint trial, which could be months away, will be held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay.
Mohammed, who US officials refer to simply as “KSM,” has been at the center of a years-long debate over the legal fate of the accused plotters. After he was captured nine years ago, Mohammed was subject to harsh interrogations and repeated “water boarding,” a simulated drowning technique that has been widely condemned as torture.
His treatment in US custody has raised questions whether his statements to interrogators will hold up in a trial, but testimony from a former aide may resolve that problem.
Human rights groups have slammed the Guantanamo tribunals as tainted and renewed demands Wednesday that all those accused of terror plots be tried in federal courts by civilian judges and juries.
“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,” Anthony Romero, American Civil Liberties Union executive director, said in a statement. — AFP