Monday, April 4, 2011

Attorney General Eric Holder will announce Monday that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other alleged 9/11 terrorists will be tried before military tribunals at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, according to two U.S. officials and a government source.

The decision is a sharp reversal for the Obama administration, which wanted the alleged terrorists to have federal civilian trials.

Holder is expected to hold a news conference discussing the decision at 2 p.m. ET.

Five suspects are charged before military commissions with participating in the 9/11 plot: Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. All five are currently at Guantanamo.

Holder has promised to seek the death penalty for each of the five men.

Initially, the attorney general was also a staunch advocate of civilian trials for the suspects. In November 2009, he said that "they will be brought to New York ... to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood."

"I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years," he insisted at the time.

Holder's plan was sharply criticized by both Republican leaders and key members of the New York congressional delegation. Among other things, critics cited cost and security concerns tied to a trial in Manhattan. They also argued that the suspects -- who are not American citizens -- should not receive the rights and protections provided to defendants in civilian courts.

A number of Democrats and civil liberties activists have expressed dismay at the idea of holding military tribunals, warning that such a move represents a dangerous breakdown in the U.S. judicial system.

President Barack Obama's primary concern is that the accused perpetrators "be brought to justice as swiftly as possible," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.


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