18 years after 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda mastermind and 4 other co-conspirators still await trial

Judge Col W Shane Cohen, on August 30 this year, finally set a start date of early 2021 for their trial


                            18 years after 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda mastermind and 4 other co-conspirators still await trial

The trial for the alleged 9/11 mastermind and his four co-conspirators still remains pending, nearly two decades after the United States witnessed the deadliest terror attacks in the nation's history.

A military judge, just last month, finally set up a trial date of early 2021 for the assailants who are currently being held at the US military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and are facing the death penalty.

Judge Col W Shane Cohen, on August 30 this year, set a start date of early 2021 in an order setting motion and evidentiary deadlines. The five defendants in the case include a senior al-Qaeda member, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has proclaimed himself as the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

 

The 9/11 Commission had described Mohammed as the "principal architect" of the deadly attacks. He was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and was reportedly tortured in secret CIA "black sites" in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe for three years before he was brought to Guantánamo.

Mohammad's co-defendants include Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ammar al-Baluchi,  and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi. All four of them are believed to be members of al-Qaeda and played pertinent roles in facilitating the attacks.

A fiery blast rocks the World Trade Center after being hit by two planes on September 11, 2001, in New York City. (Getty Images)

All five of the accused were charged in 2008 and military commission proceedings in their case were initiated in 2012. However, since then the case has moved at a very slow pace with over 30 pre-trial hearings and multiple procedural arguments, according to The Guardian.

Ever since their arrest, several victims have died and lawyers overseeing their case have grown old. Cohen set January 11, 2021, as the start of selection of a military jury, acknowledging that this particular trial "will face a host of administrative and logistics challenges".

The men were charged with war crimes, including terrorism, hijacking, and nearly 3,000 counts of murder for their alleged role in planning and providing logistical backing to the 9/11 terror plot, which saw two airliners being hijacked and then crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon near Washington and a field in Pennsylvania.

Reports state that all five assailants could receive the death penalty if convicted at the military commission. 

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