No denial for civilian trial

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Obama administration plans to prosecute Khalid Shaekh Mohammed, the brains behind the operation of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the New York Times reported Nov. 14.

Mohammed is currently held with other detainees in the military prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. He admitted to being the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks after being subjected to waterboarding, a technique the Obama administration has acknowledged as a form of illegal torture.

Mohammed’s prosecution will take place in a Manhattan federal courtroom—only a few blocks from the previous site of the World Trade Centre—rather than through a military commission.

New York Republican Representative Peter T. King said holding Mohammed’s trial on American soil could increase the chances of further terrorist attacks on the home front. Other members of Congress believe Al Qaeda suspects don’t merit the American criminal justice system’s protections, and fear the effects of releasing detainees like Mohammed back into society if they are deemed to be innocent.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports holding the prosecution on home soil. He said the city’s police force is ready to face any security issues the case may raise.

Rather than seeing the civilian trial as a dangerous move that will invite the threat of more terrorism, Americans should look at the trial as a chance to seek solace for past trauma. Holding the trial mere blocks away from where 9/11’s most devastating effects were felt is less likely to open old wounds than it is to create closure.

Fearing the potential release of detainees like Mohammed back into society, if they’re deemed innocent, demonstrates a troubling lack of faith in the federal justice system.

Concerns the trial will be biased simply because it takes place in New York City fail to give lawyers and judges the respect they deserve. Rather than resorting to a forum like the International Criminal Court, which the U.S. hasn’t subscribed to, the United States is best positioned to handle issues of justice, like Mohammed’s prosecution, that directly concern their country.

It’s unfortunate the process of bringing Mohammed to justice has taken so long, but his trial is bound to be groundbreaking. As a case that will set the precedent for any future terrorism trials, this one will benefit from thoughtful consideration on U.S. soil.

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