Maryland Senate Republicans don't want 9/11 trial in state

Letter urges the governor to tell U.S. to look elsewhere

February 27, 2010|By Julie Bykowicz | julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

U.S. Justice Department officials haven't said where they intend to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others suspected in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But Maryland Senate Republicans are eager to make sure the Free State isn't an option.

Republican leaders in the Senate delivered a letter this week to Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, urging him to tell federal officials to look elsewhere. "We urge you ... to address this issue by rejecting potential federal incentives and immediately notifying President [Barack] Obama that Maryland will not be a venue for terrorist trials," the letter said.

Sen. Allan H. Kittleman and Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who signed the letter, say they have no information that Maryland is under consideration as a possible site. Both said their letter was a "pre-emptive strike," aimed at eliminating even the slimmest chance that terrorists could stand trial in either of the state's federal courthouses, in Greenbelt and Baltimore.

The senators say Maryland's proximity to Washington and array of national buildings would complicate security for the high-profile criminal proceedings.

The Justice Department has not made it clear where the trial could take place - and whether it would be at a federal courthouse or a military base or inside a prison. New York officials rejected the decision to try the case in Manhattan, and Obama said he will consult with local officials before selecting another venue.

In a recent Associated Press article, Attorney General Eric H. Holder was quoted as saying that "all options remain open for the location of a 9/11 trial."

"His plan to transfer Mohammed and four of his alleged henchmen from the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for trial in New York City has run into massive opposition and is under review," the article says.

Nina Ginsberg, an Alexandria, Va., attorney who represented one of the Sept. 11 suspects, said that although New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania were the obvious options, prosecutors could look elsewhere.

"They may be able to come up with some basis for venue in Maryland," she said. Possible reasons could include a Sept. 11 victim who resided in the state or conspiracy-related acts that occurred in the state. Wherever Justice Department officials select as the trial location, they'd have to convince a judge they have venue there, Ginsberg said.

O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said the governor will not comment on the Republicans' letter.

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