Khalid Sheik Mohammed — the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — and four co-defendants will be tried in federal court in New York instead of a military commission, with prosecutors likely to seek the death penalty, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Friday.
The long-awaited decision, part of President Obama‘s quest to close the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, sparked immediate outrage from Republican lawmakers, who said military commissions are a more secure and appropriate place to try suspected terrorists. But it was praised by civil rights groups, who say the years of detention without trial, and the use of military commissions, violated the detainees’ civil rights.
“Our nation has had no higher priority than bringing those who planned and carried out the attack to justice,” Holder said.
He said the detainees will be transferred to the United States after all legal requirements, including a 45-day notice and report to Congress are fulfilled, and after state and local authorities have been consulted. They will be housed in maximum security units in New York that have housed other terrorism suspects. Once federal charges are filed against the five men, military charges now pending against them will be withdrawn.