United States V. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - Transfer of The Case To A Civilian Court

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Transfer of The Case To A Civilian Court

In July 2009 US Attorney General Eric Holder assigned eight experienced criminal prosecutors to build the best criminal case they could against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators. His prosecutors, Holder said, had “constructed a case that uses materials and evidence that does not derive from the techniques that were controversial,” which would “maximize our chances for success.” It was a driving concern to Holder that the case not rest on torture. “It’s a statement about what this Administration is about,” he said. “It’s a statement about this Attorney General. We are not going to use the products of interrogation techniques that this President has banned.”

On 13 November 2009 Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi will all be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for trial. He also expressed confidence that an impartial jury would be found "to ensure a fair trial in New York."

A rally near the federal court building in Foley Square, in lower Manhattan, was held on 5 December 2010 at which the decision to transfer the case to a civilian court was severely criticized. It was organized, in part, by Debra Burlingame, the sister of the pilot Charles Burlingame, who was killed when Al Qaeda hijackers crashed the plane he had been flying into the Pentagon. Burlingame is one of the three founders of Keep America Safe, a new political-advocacy group. Andrew McCarthy, the former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney who led the prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, spoke at this rally declaring that Eric Holder didn’t “understand what rule of law has always been in wartime.” He said, “It’s military commissions. It’s not to wrap our enemies in our Bill of Rights.”

In a letter to president Barack Obama, Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested that holding a trial in New York was dangerous. “New York City has been a high-priority target since at least the first World Trade Center bombing,” she wrote. “The trial of the most significant terrorist in custody would add to the threat.”

On 21 January 2010 all charges have been withdrawn in the military commissions against the five suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks being held at Guantanamo Bay. The charges were dropped "without prejudice" - a procedural move that allows federal officials to transfer the men to trial in a civilian court and also leaves the door open, if necessary, to bring charges again in military commissions.

In February 2010 White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on CNN said that he expects Mr. Mohammed to be found guilty and executed. "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to meet justice and he's going to meet his maker. He will be brought to justice and he's likely to be executed for the heinous crimes he committed," said The White House spokesperson's statement has been criticized as violating the principle of the presumption of innocence and has been characterized as egregious by an attorney of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

In February 2010 Fox News reported that the legal counsel of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the legal counsel of several other captives, was halted without warning. The attorneys had made the trip to Guantanamo in the usual manner—a trip that requires advising authorities of the purpose of their trip. However, upon their arrival in Guantanamo, they were informed they were no longer allowed to see their clients. They were told that letters to their clients, telling them that they had travelled to Cuba, to see them, could not be delivered, as they were no longer authorized to write to their clients. Camp authorities told them that since the charges against their clients had been dropped, while the Department of Justice figured out where to charge them, they no longer needed legal counsel. Camp authorities told them that, henceforward, all access to the captives had to be approved by Jay Johnson, the Department of Defense's General Counsel. Fox reported that during earlier periods when the charges had been dropped the captives had still been allowed to see their attorneys. Fox claimed that questions they asked camp authorities lead to the captives' access to their attorneys being restored.

Read more about this topic:  United States V. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

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