Bloomberg Avoids Latest Debate Over Where to Hold 9/11 Terror Trials

By Jill Colvin on March 8, 2013 12:11pm 

 A New York City police officer walks past a Homeland Security vehicle outside of U.S. District Court in Manhattan during a court appearance for three men brought from England to New York to face terrorism charges on Oct. 9, 2012.
A New York City police officer walks past a Homeland Security vehicle outside of U.S. District Court in Manhattan during a court appearance for three men brought from England to New York to face terrorism charges on Oct. 9, 2012.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Michael Bloomberg declined to weigh in Friday on whether the trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law should be held in New York — a marked change from his response to the proposed trial of accused 9/11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed several years ago.

Federal officials announced Thursday that bin Laden's son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, a former al Qaeda spokesman, had been captured and brought to New York to face terrorism-related charges.

“Is it disruptive? No street is going to be closed because of this. Would I prefer to have it elsewheres? I’m not going to get involved in that cuz I don’t want to make the president’s job any more difficult," Bloomberg said during his weekly radio show, when asked about whether Abu Ghayth's trial should be held in the city.

Instead, Bloomberg said he would leave the decision to the president and attorney general.

“Look, it’s the federal governments's choice," he said. "If they ask help from New York City, particularly the [police department], we will give them whatever they need."

The restraint was a sharp departure from 2009, when Bloomberg initially said that it would be "fitting" for Shaikh Mohammed, accused of masterminding the 9/11 attacks, to be tried near the World Trade Center, where so many people had died.

Bloomberg later changed his position, arguing the trial would be too disruptive and costly.

The trial was eventually moved to a military court at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, where pre-trail hearings have begun.

“We went through this before where the federal government wanted to try somebody here and then decided eventually to move to Guantanamo," the mayor said.

He said the trial would likely draw journalists and fill hotel rooms, but it would not present a security risk, since federal suspects are typically transported from court holding pens to courtrooms underground.

Abu Ghayth allegedly plotted to kill Americans and warned after 9/11 that terror attacks would continue, officials said.

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