Self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammad and four alleged co-conspirators were charged on Tuesday with plotting the World Trade Centre attack.
Charges filed by US military prosecutors are murder in violation of the law of war, conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking aircraft and terrorism.
The five prisoners, being held in Guantanamo Bay, faced similar charges under the Bush administration but these charges were dropped as the Obama administration intended to move the trials into a federal civilian court in New York. However, succumbing to political pressure, Obama moved the trial back to Guantanamo in April.
When speaking about the trial, the Pentagon stated, “The prosecutors have recommended that the charges against all five accused be referred as capital”. However, the responsibility of deciding whether death penalties will be sought depends solely on retired Navy Vice-Admiral Bruce MacDonald, who is the military tribunal’s Convening Authority.
In addition to felling the twin towers, Mohammad claims to have personally beheaded US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 with his “blessed right hand” and to have helped in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people.
Co-conspirator Binalshibh is accused of serving as the primary link between the hijackers and al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan while Mohammad’s nephew Abd alAziz Ali is believed to have transferred funds to US-based operatives and helped hijackers travel from Pakistan to the US.
The Obama administration has been criticised by the Republicans for his U-turn on the military tribunal while the administration argues that it has reformed military tribunals and given greater protection to defendants. Human rights groups have also expressed renewed anger.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2011.
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