September 11 trial threatened by legal dispute
By Peter Foster, Washington
8:52PM GMT 25 Jan 2013
The trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been thrown into turmoil by a legal dispute that could hand the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks and his alleged co-conspirators strong grounds for appeal.
The US defence department is at loggerheads with the chief prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay over what the charges should be. The five men, whose pretrial hearings reconvene at the naval base next week, face eight different charges.
However, Brig Gen Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor, said the charge of conspiracy should be dropped because it was no longer “legally viable” following a court ruling that conspiracy – a charge that seeks to punish suspects for association with al-Qaeda – was not a recognised war crime under international law. This meant it could not legitimately be brought before a war-crimes tribunal such as Guantánamo.
The ruling by an appeals court in Washington DC overturned the conviction against Osama bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan, and has also undermined the conviction of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who made al-Qaeda propaganda films.
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