Charges refiled against accused 9/11 mastermind

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Associated Press

Posted on May 31, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 31 at 9:32 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Military prosecutors have refiled terrorism and murder charges against the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and four other men under a revamped trial process at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the others allege that they were responsible for planning the attacks that sent hijacked commercial airliners slamming into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Prosecutors have recommended that the trial be a capital case, which could bring the death penalty.

The five men were charged previously in connection with the attacks, but those charges were dropped in 2009 when the Obama administration hoped to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo and do away with Bush-era military commissions for trying terror suspects.

The other four alleged co-conspirators are:

— Waleed bin Attash, better known as Khallad, a Yemeni who allegedly ran an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan and researched flight simulators and timetables.

— Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni who allegedly helped find flight schools for the hijackers.

— Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, accused of helping nine of the hijackers travel to the United States and sending them $120,000 for expenses and flight training.

— Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, a Saudi accused of helping the hijackers with money, Western clothing, traveler's checks and credit cards.

All five men were charged with conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking aircraft and terrorism.

The men initially were charged with the same offenses in February 2008, but that plan stalled in 2009 as President Barack Obama ordered a review of the military commission system. That November, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the five would face trial in a civilian court in New York City.

That plan, however, was widely opposed by Republicans in Congress, as well as some New York Democrats, and Congress passed legislation prohibiting any move to bring Guantanamo detainees to the U.S.

About two months ago, the Obama administration bowed to political pressure and backed off the plan, saying it would instead prosecute them before a military commission. And the chief prosecutor in the office of military commissions, Capt. John Murphy, said he would recommend a joint trial at Guantanamo for all five.

C. Dixon Osburn of Human Rights First said it is regrettable that the administration has to shelve its plans to prosecute the cases in civilian courts.

Federal courts, he said, "have successfully convicted more than 400 persons of terror-related crimes since 9/11, have more criminal laws to incapacitate possible terrorists and have more than 200 years of precedent to guide them."

The five men have been held at Guantanamo.

Dominic J. Puopolo Jr., a Miami computer consultant whose mother was killed in the 9/11 attacks, attended the trial in Germany of a Moroccan man accused of aiding the plotters and had hoped to attend the trial of Mohammed and the others held at Guantanamo. He had been frustrated by the lack of apparent progress and said he was "pleasantly surprised" to receive notification on Monday from the Defense Department that charges would be filed again.

"Just to get this started back in Guantanamo Bay is a big deal," said Puopolo, whose mother was on board the American Airlines flight out of Boston that the hijackers crashed into one of the World Trade Center's twin towers. "I have every intention of making a stand and going there if offered."

Under the military commissions process, the charges will be forwarded to the convening authority, Bruce MacDonald, who will decide whether to refer any of the charges for trial by military commission.

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Associated Press writer Ben Fox in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

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