US plea proposal for 9/11 suspects splits victims’ relatives

But Dennis McGinley of the group 9/11 Justice said the deal would leave untold the full story behind the attack that killed his brother Danny in the south tower of the World Trade Center.

“All this is, is … to prevent a trial from taking place where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to have to spill the beans,” he said, referring to the self-described 9/11 mastermind also known as KSM.


The deal, outlined in an Aug 1 letter from the office of the chief prosecutor for the Pentagon-run military tribunals, has been in preparation for two years in the case of KSM, Ammar al-Baluchi, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Mustafa al-Hawsawi.

Each has been held for more than 16 years at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they are among the last 30 of what was once nearly 800 people detained extrajudicially by the United States after 9/11.

They were formally arraigned in 2012 for the case, but since the beginning it has been mired in debates over prosecutors’ intent to use evidence that defense attorneys say was extracted through systematic torture at the hands of the CIA.

The letter implicitly acknowledges that prosecutors cannot say when a full trial would begin, if ever.

In the proposed deal, the accused “would accept criminal responsibility for their actions and plead guilty to the charged offenses in exchange for not receiving the death penalty”, the letter said.

It said the defendants would have to agree to a “stipulation of facts,” which would provide details of the Sep 11 plot and their roles in it.

While the prosecutors said no deal was finalised, the letter was confirmation that such an arrangement appears to be where the case is heading.

And, indeed, the prospect of more delays sharpened last week when a military judge in a separate Guantanamo case rejected torture-tainted confessions.


Dropping the death penalty in the case though could spark an emotional backlash not only from victims’ families but from Americans across the country, where anger remains deep over the Al-Qaeda attack.

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 perpetrators should never be given a plea deal and should face the full measure of justice for their actions – the death penalty,” said New York Congressman Mike Lawler, criticising President Joe Biden for the deal.

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