Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday said 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed won’t be tried in a civilian court in New York, even though he maintains that’s the best place for the trial.
Holder had to back down from the decision in 2011 in the face of criticism from lawmakers who demanded a military trial for Mohammed.
“I think the decision I announced at that time was the correct one,” Holder said Tuesday, according to reports.
“Many of the problems that we’re now seeing in the military commissions were predicted in the papers I reviewed and helped shape my decision,” he added. “But that is a decision that has been made. This is not a decision we are going to revisit.”
Holder made the comments during a trip to New York to congratulate the successful prosecution of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith in a civilian court.
Abu Ghaith, an al Qaeda spokesman and the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, is the highest-ranking al Qaeda leader to face trial in a civilian court.
He was convicted on conspiracy charges to kill Americans, and of providing support to the terrorist group. Sentencing will begin Sept. 8.
Mohammed, meanwhile, is still in the pretrial phase in a military court in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
A number of Republican lawmakers have opposed trying terrorism suspects in civilian court. Even after the conviction of Abu Ghaith, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he opposed the decision because the United States could have obtained a treasure-trove of intelligence information from Abu Ghaith.
“In recent years, the federal government has demonstrated great skill in apprehending foreign terrorism suspects, obtaining high-value intelligence from them, and then proceeding to pursue justice against them through our court system, either by way of guilty pleas or convictions at trial,” Holder said on Tuesday night.
Holder also echoed comments he and a number of Democrats made last week after the conviction. He said the conviction hopefully puts to bed any lingering doubts about the process.