The US military is charging six Guantanamo Bay detainees with murder and war crimes for the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks on the US.
Brigadier-General Thomas W. Hartmann, legal advisor to the tribunal system ordered by President George W. Bush, announced that 169 charges had been sworn against the six men "alleged to be responsible for the planning and execution of the (9/11) attacks" that killed about 3,000 people.
Among the accused is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the attacks in which hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center twin towers in New York and into the Pentagon in Washington, Hartmann said. Another hijacked plane crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania after passengers fought the air pirates.
"The charges allege a long-term, highly sophisticated, organized plan by Al-Qaida to attack the United States of America," Hartmann told a Pentagon press conference on Monday.
Officials said they would seek the death penalty and hope to try all six together. That would make it the first capital trial under the military's terrorism-era tribunal system.
The other five men charged are Mohammed al-Qahtani, who officials suspect was to have participated in the 9/11 operation; Ramzi Binalshibh, said to have been the main intermediary between the hijackers and Al-Qaida leaders; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, known as Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew and lieutenant of Sheikh Mohammed; al-Baluchi's assistant, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi; and Waleed bin Attash, a detainee known as Khallad, who investigators say selected and trained some of the 19 hijackers who died in the hijacked planes.
Dominic J. Puopolo Jr, whose mother, Sonia Morales Puopolo, was a passenger on board one of the downed airliners, said he was relieved but had mixed feelings.
"There's a feeling that we have to rehash this again, and it will be in the media and bring back some very painful memories," he said. "On the other hand, the worst of the worst are going to be held accountable for their actions."
What impact will it have on the case that Sheikh Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding by CIA interrogators? Hartmann said it would be up to the tribunal judge to determine what evidence is allowed.
Al-Qahtani, too, has alleged torture, and last fall recanted a confession he said he made after he was beaten, abused and humiliated at Guantanamo.
(China Daily via agencies February 13, 2008)