November 13, 2009 / 8:03 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-New York split over plan to try Sept. 11 plotters

(Adds mayor, senator, fresh quotes)

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Some New Yorkers are angry that accused plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks will be tried in a court near where the World Trade Center once stood, while others are relieved that justice may soon be served.

Five men, including the alleged mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be brought to New York from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to face prosecution in a criminal court, the Obama administration said on Friday. [ID:nN13455549]

The 2001 attacks destroyed the World Trade Center’s twin towers in lower Manhattan and killed nearly 3,000 people.

“I think it’s insensitive to New Yorkers and Americans because we’ve been through so much with 9/11,” said Lucie Mansuetto, 23, a legal assistant from Brooklyn, as she waited for coffee not far from the World Trade Center site.

Mansuetto and others also raised concerns that bringing the accused men to New York could be a security risk.

Several security scares since 2001 — a 2007 steam pipe explosion and earlier this year a low flying plane trailed by a fighter jet flying over the Statue of Liberty for a photo shoot — have created panic among still jittery New Yorkers.

Michael Mukasey, a former U.S. judge from New York who was attorney general in the last year of the Bush administration, said the move to put the accused on trial in the city would be unwise and represented a return to the “mindset” prior to Sept. 11 when acts of war were treated like “conventional crimes.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, however, tried to reassure those nervous about the federal government’s plan, saying that the New York Police Department (NYPD) and other authorities would be able to deal with the situation.

“I have great confidence that the NYPD, with federal authorities, will handle security expertly,” said Bloomberg, adding that he felt it was fitting the suspects be tried near the site of the World Trade Center.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said it was important to be focused on seeking justice “for the families who lost loved ones due to these terrorists’ heinous acts” and that political wrangling over the issue should be avoided.

“DON’T BRING THEM BACK HERE”

In addition to raising concerns about security, some New Yorkers said it was not appropriate to try the accused in the city and expressed doubts that they will be able to get a fair trial.

“How are they going to impanel a jury here?” asked engineer Joe Klein, 56. “I would think a military court would be more appropriate. The offense is of a military nature.”

Rosalie Morales, a 51-year-old legal secretary from Brooklyn, was more blunt. “New Yorkers aren’t going to give them a fair trial, no way, I wouldn’t,” she said.

Wearing a Yankees baseball cap and selling coffee from a cart in Times Square, Bashir Saleh, 52, who moved to the United States from Afghanistan in 1982, said he could not understand why people would get upset about the trials being held here.

“Justice should be served one way or another. We have to do this,” he said. “It’s very simple, people who commit a crime, they have to pay for it.”

Plumber Jon Adorno, from Long Island, New York, said he would just like to see justice done.

“They have to go in front of court somewhere so it might as well be here. Why not?” he said. “I would like to see them go to court anywhere, I don’t mind it being here.”

As she smoked a cigarette in Times Square before starting work, Sacha Thomas, 31, a legal assistant from Brooklyn, described New York as “a very protective city” and said some people would be upset that the trials were being held here.

“You just have to put your faith in the system and hope that it works,” she said. “We just have to trust in our government.”

Additional reporting by Edith Honan in New York and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington; Editing by Mark Egan and Paul Simao

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