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Executing 9/11 suspects would make them martyrs: Mukasay

[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile; JURIST news archive] told an audience in London Friday that he hopes those accused in the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive] do not receive the death penalty if found guilty because it would make them martyrs. Mukasey made the comment in response to a question after a speech [prepared text] at the London School of Economics on Anglo-American law enforcement. Mukasey did say the punishment would be fitting if they are convicted of the crime, but he believes it would allow the accused to portray themselves as victims. He emphasized that he was merely expressing a personal opinion, not stating US government policy.

The US is planning military commission trials of the six men currently accused in the attacks at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Those six include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, and Mohammed al-Qahtani. Mukasey defended the military commission process in his remarks Friday, saying:

The military commissions established by our Congress are closely modeled on tribunals that the United States uses in courts-martial to try U.S. citizens in uniform. They include all the protections that we regard as fundamental, they exceed those used at Nuremberg, and they compare favorably with international war crimes tribunals.

Under the Military Commissions Act, for example, the accused enjoys the right to counsel; the presumption of innocence unless guilt is proved beyond a reasonable doubt; and the right to a trial before impartial military judges—the same military judges who preside at courts-martial—and an impartial jury. The accused enjoys the right to see all of the evidence presented against him—including any classified evidence presented to the members of the military commission. And the act ensures that the military judge deems statements admitted to be reliable and in the interest of justice.

Moreover, there will be no secret trials—rather, all trials will be open and public, with only a narrow exception to protect national security. Finally, for those convicted, the Military Commissions Act provides several levels of appeal, including to our civilian courts, and ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court. Like many of the rights provided in the act, this access to our domestic courts for direct appellate review is an unprecedented protection for convicted war criminals.

We recognize that the use of military commissions has been regarded as controversial by some of our allies. But we hope that as the trials go forward—and the first of them, of a man named Hamdan, who served among other things as Osama bin Laden's driver, is scheduled to begin this Spring—some of the misimpressions about the system will laid be to rest, and the world will see not only the crimes of al Qaeda put upon display, but also a justice system fully consistent with our shared Anglo-American legal tradition as well as the standards of international law. That's why international conversations like this one are important, because they provide the opportunity for a discussion grounded in fact.
Military prosecutors are seeking the death penalty [JURIST report] for those charged in the 9/11 trial, but a convening authority overseeing the trial must decide whether to accept it and then decide whether those charged are eligible. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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