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Holder defends 9/11 federal trials decision before Senate committee

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] appeared Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] to answer questions regarding the decision to try five men accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive] in federal court. In his opening remarks [transcript; video], Holder refuted the arguments made by his predecessor [Washington Times report] and other lawmakers that the decision to try these men in civilian courts represents a "pre-9/11" mentality. Additionally, he sought to allay concerns voiced by critics that civilian courts are inadequate to handle the cases of suspected terrorists and will provide a public forum to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed [JURIST news archive], the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

Judges in federal court have firm control over the conduct of defendants and other participants in their courtrooms, and when the 9/11 conspirators are brought to trial, I have every confidence that the presiding judge will ensure appropriate decorum. And if [Mohammad] makes the same statements he made in his military commission proceedings, I have every confidence the nation and the world will see him for the coward he is. I’m not scared of what [Mohammad] will have to say at trial – and no one else needs to be either.
Holder was faced with heavy criticism during the hearing from Republican committee members. Ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) [official website] told Holder his decision was "dangerous, misguided, and unnecessary" and would create a security risk. The hearing comes amid efforts by the Obama administration to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] by next year. President Barack Obama on Wednesday confirmed [NYT report] that the facility would not be closed by the self-imposed January 22 deadline, as has been stated by administration officials [JURIST report] for the past several weeks.

Holder on Friday announced [JURIST report] that the government will pursue federal charges against the five suspected 9/11 conspirators in a Manhattan district court by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia [official websites]. Holder said that he recommended that the men be tried in civilian court after a case-by-case review conducted by the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense [official websites] according to a new protocol announced in July. Reactions to the decision have fallen mostly along partisan lines, with many Republicans opposing the plan [JURIST report], and many Democrats supporting it.

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