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US to seek death penalty in six 9/11 military commission cases: reports

[JURIST] The Pentagon is expected to announce Monday that military prosecutors will seek the death penalty against six Guantanamo detainees accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, according to government sources speaking on condition of anonymity. Under the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA) [PDF text], the convening authority who oversees the military commissions process, former US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces Judge Susan J. Crawford [DOD press release], will decide to reject or grant the prosecutor's request for a capital trial. Among the six detainees expected to be charged is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile], who has said under oath that he masterminded the 9/11 attacks [JURIST report] and is responsible for 29 other planned terror attacks.

The decision to seek the death penalty in the six 9/11 cases is expected to attract additional criticism from countries and human rights groups that already oppose the Bush administration's treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The US has said that some 80 Guantanamo detainees will eventually face prosecution under the military commissions system [DOD materials]. So far, cases have been initiated against seven detainees, including two charged [JURIST report] last week. The New York Times has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

11:58 AM ET - In a press conference Monday morning, the Defense Department announced that charges [PDF text] have been sworn against six Guantanamo Bay detainees:

  • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
  • Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek Bin 'Attash,
  • Ramzi Binalshibh,
  • Ali Abdul Aziz Ali,
  • Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, and
  • Mohamed al Kahtani.
According to the Defense Department's press release [text]:
Each of the defendants is charged with conspiracy and the separate, substantive offenses of: murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism.

The first four defendants, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek Bin 'Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali are also charged with the substantive offense of hijacking or hazarding a vessel.

All of the charges are alleged to have been in support of the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Pentagon also confirmed that it will seek the death penalty for each defendant.

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