MANHATTAN — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others who allegedly planned and executed the 9/11 attacks, will face a death penalty military trial in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — years after the possibility of a civilian trial in Manhattan sparked a firestorm of controversy, Defense Department officials announced Wednesday.
The charges against them include terrorism, conspiracy, hijacking aircraft, attacking civilians and murder for the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa. In total, 2,976 people were killed that day.
If convicted, Mohammed — as well as Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin 'Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi — could face the death penalty.
The men were first charged back in 2008. But those charges were withdrawn in 2010 as part of efforts to move the trial from Guantanamo Bay to federal court in Manhattan.
The push for a civilian trial prompted a fierce backlash from politicians as well as local citizens who worried about security issues that could result from bringing such a volatile case to New York City.
In 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder agreed to send the case back to the military.
Now, with a military trial approaching, each of the accused has been provided with a detailed defense counsel, as well as “learned counsel, possessing specialized knowledge and experience in death penalty cases, to assist them in their defense,” according to the Defense Department.