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Attorney-General's news conference Add to ...

Read the transcript of U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder's news conference on Guantanamo Bay detainees


HOLDER: Good morning.

Just over eight years ago, on a morning that our nation will never forget, 19 hijackers, working with a network of Al Qaida conspirators around the world, launched the deadliest terrorist attacks our country has ever seen.

Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in those attacks. And in the years since, our nation has had no higher priority than bringing those who planned and plotted the attacks to justice.

One year before, in October of 2000, a terrorist attack on the United States Cole killed 17 American sailors.

Today, we announce a step forward in bringing those we believe were responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the attack on the USS Cole to justice.

Five detainees at Guantanamo have been charged before military commissions with participation in the 9/11 plot. They are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek bin Attash (ph), Ramzi bin Al Shibh (ph), Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (ph), and Mustafa Ahmed al- Hawsawi.

Those proceedings have been stayed since February, as have the proceedings pending in military commissions against four other detainees accused of different crimes.

A case in military commissions against the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing, Abdul al-Rahim al-Nashiri (ph), was withdrawn in February.

HOLDER: For the past several months, prosecutors at the Department of Justice have been working diligently with prosecutors from the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions to review the case of each detainee at Guantanamo who has been referred for prosecution.

Over the past few weeks, I have personally reviewed these cases and, in consultation with the secretary of defence, have made determinations about the prosecution of 10 detainees now held at Guantanamo, including those charged in the 9/11 plot and the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing.

Today I am announcing that the Department of Justice will pursue prosecution in federal court of the five individuals accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks.

Further, I have decided to refer back to the Department of Defence five defendants to face military commission trials, including the detainee who was previously charged in the USS Cole bombing.

The 9/11 cases that will be pursued in federal court have been jointly assigned to prosecutors from the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia, and will be brought in Manhattan in the Southern District of New York.

After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for that attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice. They will be brought to New York -- to New York -- to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood.

I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years.

HOLDER: The alleged 9/11 conspirators will stand trial in our justice system before an impartial jury under long-established rules and procedures.

I also want to assure the American people that we will prosecute these cases vigorously, and we will pursue the maximum punishment available.

These were extraordinary crimes, and so we will seek maximum penalties. Federal rules allow us to seek the death penalty for capital offences, and while we will review the evidence and circumstances following established protocols, I fully expect to direct prosecutors to seek the death penalty against each of the alleged 9/11 conspirators.

In a speech at the National Archives in May, the president called for the reform of military commissions to ensure that they are lawful, fair and effective prosecution fora. The reforms Congress recently adopted to the Military Commissions Act ensure that military commissions trials will be fair and that convictions obtained will be secure.

I know that the Department of Defence is absolutely committed to ensuring that military commission trials will be consistent with our highest standards as a nation and our civilian prosecutors will continue to work closely with military prosecutors to support them in that effort.

In each case, my decision as to whether to proceed in federal courts or military commissions was based on a protocol that the Departments of Justice and Defence developed, and that was announced publicly in July.

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