Biden rejects plea deal for 9/11 'masterminds' that would see them avoid death

President Joe Biden has rejected a plea deal for five Guantanamo Bay prisoners accused of coordinating the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The proposed plea agreement would have seen the five defendants plead guilty to war crimes. They would have received life prison sentences and avoid the death penalty.

‘The 9/11 attacks were the single worst assault on the United States since Pearl Harbor,’ a White House spokesperson said. ‘The president does not believe that accepting the joint policy principles as a basis for a pre-trial agreement would be appropriate in these circumstances.’

Among the defendants is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a Pakistani militant most famous for leading al-Qaeda’s propaganda wing. The US has since named him as the ‘principal architect’ behind the 9/11 attacks.

Mohammed was captured by US and Pakistani intelligence operatives in 2003, and has been in US military custody at Guantanamo Bay since 2006.

After years of interrogation, Mohammed confessed to planning the 9/11 attacks, as well as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing, Richard Reid’s attempted ‘shoe bombing,’ and the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The proposed plea deal would have guaranteed the defendants would not serve their life sentences in solitary confinement, and also guaranteed that they could continue to eat and pray together, the New York Times reported.

The deal also demanded medical treatment for sleep disorders, brain injuries, and other health problems they sustained while in military or CIA custody.

Mohammed was charged with war crimes, including murder, attacking civilians, terrorism, and hijacking. He was also charged with 2,977 counts of first-degree murder, one for each of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

However, his prosecution has consistently stalled over the last decade. His first trial date, set for January 2021, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another trial date was set for 2023, but that date was also postponed in order to negotiate the plea deal.

After news of the plea deal broke earlier this year, families of the victims and survivors of the attacks sharply criticized the proceedings.

‘A plea deal avoids a trial, a plea deal avoids a public reckoning, and that’s the important issue,’ said Brett Eagleson, the head of 9/11 Justice, in an interview with Politico.

‘We cannot have the greatest terrorist attack in the history of this country fade away with plea deals for the last remaining prisoners in Guantanamo,’ he said.

On Wednesday, the White House affirmed their commitment to the victims and survivors.

‘The administration is committed to ensuring that the military commissions process is fair and delivers justice to the victims, survivors, families, and those accused of crimes,’ the White House said.

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