Executions sought for 9/11 defendants

The head of the Pentagon’s war crimes tribunal approved death penalty charges Tuesday against five alleged Sept. 11 conspirators, including confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Prosecution of a sixth suspect, so-called 20th hijacker Mohammed al-Qahtani, was dropped.

The tribunal’s convening authority, Susan Crawford, referred to trial the cases against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and alleged Al Qaeda collaborators Waleed bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi. All are in jail at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, the defendants must be arraigned within 30 days of the referral of charges, and trials must begin within four months.

The arraignments, at the Guantanamo war crimes court, will be the first public appearance of the defendants since their captures after the attacks. They are accused of plotting the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a crash site in Pennsylvania.

Crawford noted that the charges against Qahtani in February were dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning the Pentagon could reinstate them later.

Mohammed and the four others face trials for alleged conspiracy, murder in violation of the laws of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property, terrorism and material support for terrorism.

All but Hawsawi also are charged with hijacking aircraft for their alleged roles in preparing the attacks.