Obama criticized for 9/11 suspects' trials

November 15, 2009|By Agence France Presse

WASHINGTON — — US President Barack Obama faced criticism Saturday for a decision to try the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in a civilian court just steps from Ground Zero, with victims' families and political foes voicing opposition.

As victims' support groups lambasted plans to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-plotters in the New York court, Obama's political foes warned the decision would harm efforts to fight terrorism.

Republican Senator John McCain, Obama's former election rival, warned the decision sent "a mixed message about America's resolve in the fight against terrorism.

"We are at war, and we must bring terrorists to justice in a manner consistent with the horrific acts of war they have committed," he said.

The criticism came after Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday announced that prosecutors would seek the death penalty against the five men, who are being held at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September 11 will finally face justice," Holder said.

Five more Guantanamo detainees, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of plotting the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole destroyer off Yemen that killed 17 US sailors, will be tried before military commissions.

The announcement, key to President Barack Obama's plans to close Guantanamo by January, was quickly condemned by families of the nearly 3,000 victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"To allow a terrorist and a war criminal the opportunity of having US constitutional protections is a wrong thing to do and it's never been done before," said Ed Kowalski of the 9/11 Families for a Secure America Foundation.

Peter Gadiel, who lost his 23-year-old son James in the World Trade Center's north tower, accused Obama of trying to establish a "show trial" that would end up being "a circus."

Such reactions left legal experts, including those involved with the case, warning of the legal difficulties ahead, particularly in the search for an impartial jury.

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