Monday 8 March 2010

What should be done with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other conspirators?

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who is additionally known by at least fifty aliases, (born March 1, 1964, or April 14, 1965) is a detainee in U.S. custody for alleged acts of terrorism, including mass murder of civilians. He was charged on February 11, 2008, with war crimes and murder by a U.S. military commission and faces the death penalty if convicted.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was a member of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization, although he lived in Kuwait rather than Afghanistan, heading al-Qaeda's propaganda operations sometime around 1999. The 9/11 Commission Report alleges that he was "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks." He is also alleged to have confessed to a role in many of the most significant terrorist plots over the last twenty years, including the World Trade Center 1993 bombings, the Operation Bojinka plot, an aborted 2002 attack on the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, the Bali nightclub bombings, the failed bombing of American Airlines Flight 63, the Millennium Plot, and the murder of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.

Where are these alleged terrorists going to be tried?

The Office of Military Commission was established in February 2004 to administer the military commission of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Then President George W. Bush wanted to try suspected terrorists who were held in the base's detention camp before the Guantanamo military commissions which are in actual fact, military tribunals.

A military tribunal is a kind of military court designed to try members of enemy forces during wartime, operating outside the scope of conventional criminal and civil proceedings. The judges are military officers who also fulfill the role of jurors. There are generally three of them. Military tribunals are distinct from courts-martial.

This kind of tribunal is an inquisitorial system based on charges brought by a military authority, prosecuted by a military authority, judged by military officers, and sentenced by military officers against a member of an adversary; be the person a member of an enemy armed force or a terrorist.

Civilian criminal trials must be open to the public, whereas military tribunals can be held in secret. The reason for the secrecy is that the government may not wish to disclose how the defendant was found or seized. For example, such disclosure may compromise an ongoing investigation or the name of an informant.

Decisions made by a military tribunal cannot be appealed to federal courts. The only way to appeal is to petition an appeal to a panel of review (which may or may not include civilians as well as military officers) to review decisions, however the President, as commander-in-chief, has the final decision of all appeals if they get that far.

Further, the tribunal doesn’t have to accept any particular lawyer since he would then become privy to secrets. In Canada, in similar courts that deals with terrorists, there are certain lawyers who have been vetted and approved for the task of defending terrorists. The chances of terrorists in the United States being represented by a lawyer who is not an officer in the armed forces is pretty remote.

Although President George W. Bush had ordered that certain detainees imprisoned at the Naval base at Guantanamo Bay were to be tried by military commissions, the current president, Obama said that the terrorists could be tried in a court other than a military tribunal however, it appears he may have changed his mind.
Administration officials told the Washington Post recently that the president's advisers were growing increasingly wary of bipartisan opposition to the planned civilian federal trial in New York City, mere blocks from where nearly 3,000 Americans were killed in the attack on the World Trade Center.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and prominent state Democrats, who initially embraced Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other conspirators in Manhattan, later reversed their support for trying them in Manhattan.

The Obama administration originally advocated civilian trials for terrorists as an important demonstration of the U.S. commitment to rule of law, with government officials citing the numerous terrorism trials previously held successfully in U.S. criminal courts.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, argues for a civilian court trial, saying that the U.S. criminal justice system is capable and best honors the nation's values. Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert on the other hand is in favor of a military trial, arguing that the Constitution provides for military tribunals and that a civilian court would bring about safety issues for the American public.

One good reason why the trial should be held in Manhattan is that the crime of terrorism in which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is accused of with respect to the Trade Center bombing in 2003, took place in that city.

Terry McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber was originally to have his trial in the City of Oklahoma where his bombing of the federal building took place but the venue was changed to Denver, Colorado because it was suggested that it would be impossible to find an unprejudiced jury in Oklahoma.

The mayor of New York’s complaint is that the security required in have the trial heard in Manhattan would be too expensive for the city to bear. That problem however, can be reduced if the federal government pays the bulk of the expenses need to ensure that sufficient security is obtained.

I will try to give you some idea as to how the five terrorists would be tried by comparing their trials with that of Timothy McVeigh and what would happen to them if they are convicted and sentenced to death.

In McVeigh’s trial, the prosecution presented 137 witnesses. The defense presented 25 witnesses. After over twenty-three hours of deliberation, the jury returned its verdict: guilty on all eleven counts. The same jury listened to evidence in the penalty phase of the trial. For two days, the jury discussed McVeigh's fate.

On Friday, June 13, 1997, the jury's decision was announced: death. Two months later, McVeigh returned to Judge Matsch's courtroom to hear the formal pronouncement of his sentence. After Matsch pronounced the sentence of death, McVeigh was escorted from the courtroom by federal marshals, to be readied for transport to Florence, Colorado, the site of a federal prison known as ‘Supermax’.

McVeigh's appeals, as expected, met no success.In September 1999, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. Six months later, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal. Authorities moved McVeigh to the only federal death row (there had been no federal executions since 1963) at a penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana in July 1999.

The Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute, is a federal prison for adult males located at the intersection of State Road 63 and Springhill Drive in Terre Haute, Indiana, United States, two miles (3 km) southwest of central Terre Haute. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

In 1993, the FCC at Terre Haute became the only federal prison in the United States to house a death row. It was selected due to its geographic location near the center of the country and the fact that it already was a high-security prison that housed some of the most dangerous inmates in the United States. This institution carries out executions of inmates by means of lethal injection. The most famous death sentence to take place at the prison was the June 11, 2001 execution of Timothy McVeigh. Juan Raul Garza became the second person executed at FCC Terre Haute, for his involvement in three drug-related murders that occurred in 1993. On March 19, 2003, Louis Jones Jr. became the third person executed at this institution, for kidnapping, raping, and killing 19-year-old Tracie Joy McBride.

All inmates serving death row sentences are placed in the Special Confinement Unit (SCU) of the FCC in Terre Haute. This unit became a part of FCC in July 1999. The SCU can hold a maximum of fifty inmates. The SCU provides religious and educational television programs, medical and psychological treatment, indoor and outdoor recreation, in addition to an industrial workshop that provides jobs for the inmates.

On the evening of June 10, 2001, McVeigh had his last meal. The next morning, he woke early to take a shower. At 7 a.m., while dressed in a white shirt, khaki pants and slip-on shoes, McVeigh was led to the execution chamber. A ‘restraint team’ strapped him to a padded gurney. The curtains over glass panels separating the chamber from a viewing area parted to allow 30 people to directly watch McVeigh's final moments, while another 300 victims and relatives gathered in Oklahoma City to watch the event on closed-circuit television, Warden Harley Lappin read an official statement and then said, "We are ready." McVeigh was the injected with the fatal drugs and was pronounced dead at 7:14 a.m. Three months after his execution, on September 11, 2001, McVeigh lost his claim to having masterminded the worst terrorist attack in United States history when hijacked airplanes slammed into the two towers of the World Trade Center.

If the five alleged terrorists are tried in a military court and sentenced to death, they would be transported either to Supermax while waiting for the final results of their appeals or alternatively, directly to the United States Disciplinary Barracks which is the sole maximum-security penal facility of the United States Military. It is in Leavenworth, Kansas.

It is the U.S. military's only maximum-security facility and houses male service members convicted at court-martial for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Only enlisted prisoners with sentences over five years, commissioned officers, and prisoners convicted of offenses related to national security are confined to the USDB. If convicted of terrorism by a military tribunal, the five terrorists could be sent to this institution.

The USDB houses the U.S. military's death row inmates. Since 1945, there have been 21 executions at the USDB, including fourteen German prisoners of war imprisoned in the United States who were executed in 1945 for murder. The last execution by the U.S. Military was the hanging of Army Pfc. John A. Bennett, on April 13, 1961, for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl. Bennett's execution took place four years after it was approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. All executions at the USDB thus far have been by hanging, but lethal injection has been specified as the military's current mode of execution. As of November 12, 2008, there are four prisoners on death row at the USDB, the most recent addition being Andrew P. Witt, the only Air Force member currently on the USDB death row.

The execution of Army private Ronald A. Gray, who has been on military death row since 1988, was approved by President George W. Bush on July 28, 2008. Gray was convicted of the rape, two murders and an attempted murder of three women, two of them being Army soldiers and the third a civilian taxi driver whose body was found on the post at Fort Bragg. On November 26th, 2008, a federal judge granted Gray a stay of execution to allow his lawyer time for further appeals.

If the five terrorists are sentenced to death, their mode of execution will be by lethal injection.

A more appropriate punishment would be to place each of them in a small cell of their own in which the only place they can urinate and defecate would be in a bucket which is emptied only once a day in the middle of the night and replaced with another bucket. Their two meals a day would comprise of cold baked beans and dry bread and water. They would have no mattress on their beds nor have a pillow but they would have two tear-proof blankets. They would have no access to TV or radio or access to anything that can be read. They would have no visitors. They would be permitted to go to an exercise area attached to their cell in which they could exercise at ten in the evening for half an hour each day. They would not ever see daylight again as there would be no windows in their cells. There would be no privacy for them because a closed-circuit TV camera would be placed high on the wall where their every move could be seen. They would not be able to speak to or hear any other prisoners as their cells would be sound proof. Even the guards emptying their pails and bringing them food would not speak to them. The only human voices they would hear are their own.

Now you can say that this is cruel. You are right, it is. But consider if you will, what other punishment would you suggest be given to the man who helped plan the Bali nightclub bombing. The 2002 Bali bombings occurred on 12 October 2002 in the tourist district of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali. The attack was the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of Indonesia, killing 202 people, 152 of whom were foreign nationals (including 88 Australians and 2 Canadians) When my wife and I were in Bali in 2005, we visited the site of that terrible event.

Imagine if you will that you were on the street when that bombing took place. The attack involved the detonation of two bombs: a backpack-mounted device carried by a suicide bomber and a large car bomb, both of which were detonated right next to two heavily packed popular nightclubs across the street from one another in Kuta. The first one went off in one of the nightclubs and as anyone who was still alive ran out onto the street, the second one (car bomb) exploded. Heads, limbs, guts and flesh flew everywhere.

Three Indonesian terrorists who planned the bombings were later convicted and sentenced to death. Several years later, they were taken to an island where they were executed by a firing squad. Their sentences were what they wanted because they wanted to die as martyrs.

I don’t think the five accused terrorist waiting for their trials in the U.S., if convicted, should be permitted to die as martyrs but instead, they should rot in a prison cell while being bored to death for years until they eventually die of old age. And as I suggested in a speech I gave at a UN crime conference in Milan in 1985 in which I spoke about terrorists; their bodies should be cremated and placed in metal containers and dumped far out to sea where no one can pray over their remains. That is the way terrorist's remains should be disposed of.

These kinds of terrorists believe that when they die, there will be 72 virgins waiting for each of them. If that is true, I hope that all 72 virgins are over the age of ninety.

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