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The criminal trials of the 9/11 terrorists may finally be coming to the punch line. Last Friday, the criminal trial of the architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, together with four others commenced in the Military Commission at Guantánamo Bay.
Yet this might be another variation on previous suspended prosecutions. In February 2008, criminal charges were first pressed against Khalid Sheik and his alleged co-conspirators in the Military Commission under the administration of president George W Bush. The trial began in June 2008. Five months later the accused indicated that they would plead guilty.
In January 2009, president Barack Obama was elected with a promise to close down the Military Commission at Guantánamo Bay and to proceed with criminal trials under civil law. The new US attorney-general, Eric Holder, announced in November 2009, that the trials would be transferred from the military jurisdiction to the US federal district court. All charges were withdrawn in the Military Commission in January 2010 and the US Federal Court took over.
The Federal Court in Manhattan, for the Southern District of New York, has become the main US court for prosecution of terrorists, although other districts have also since met the challenge. There's now a substantial body of successfully prosecuted cases in the civil courts