Alleged 9/11 mastermind open to aiding victim lawsuit to avoid execution

Alleged 9/11 mastermind open to aiding victim lawsuit to avoid execution

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has expressed willingness to aid a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia by victims of the attack if the federal government does not seek the death penalty against him, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Mohammed’s offer was first made public in a filing Friday as part of the federal lawsuit, which seeks to hold the Saudi government responsible for assisting in the attacks, a charge the Saudis have denied.

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Lawyers for the plaintiffs reportedly reached out to three of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners accused of conspiring in the attacks, after which they wrote that Mohammed’s attorney said he would not agree to a deposition currently, but “[i]n the absence of a potential death sentence much broader cooperation would be possible."

The comments were a marked departure from a June 2008 hearing in which Mohammed interrupted a military judge who called his proceedings a “death penalty case” to say it was a “martyr case.”

“This is what I wish. I’ve been looking to be martyred for a long time,” Mohammed said, according to the Journal.

Harvey Rishikof, the Pentagon official responsible for overseeing the proceedings of Guantanamo cases, began exploring potential deals with 9/11 defendants in which they would receive life sentences for guilty pleas in 2017, largely due to concern that the defendants’ torture in Central Intelligence Agency facilities could keep the prosecution from securing convictions in a capital case.

Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis fired Rishikof shortly after the plea talks became publicly known, although he maintained it was for unrelated reasons.

“A lot has happened in the past 10 years,” a person familiar with the Guantanamo proceedings told the Journal. “The 9/11 defendants are not as interested as they once were in martyring themselves.”

“We’re trying to leave no stone unturned,” James Kreindler, one of the attorneys representing the victims in the lawsuit, said Monday. “But who knows whether [the 9/11 conspirators will] ever testify or be honest or be cooperative?”