[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. Im 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.