NEW YORK (Reuters) - Demonstrators angered by the Obama administration’s move to prosecute the self-professed mastermind of the September 11 attacks in civilian court on U.S. soil called on Saturday for the trial to be moved to a military tribunal.
More than 1,000 people braved cold and rain to rally outside the Manhattan federal courthouse where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others will be tried.
Speakers blasted U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for his decision to hold the trials in a court just blocks from the World Trade Center site, where thousands of people were killed in the 2001 attacks with hijacked planes.
Demonstrators -- among them family members of victims and rescuers-- held U.S. flags and signs reading “no constitutional rights for enemy combatants,” and booed and jeered as speakers invoked Holder’s name and that of President Barack Obama.
“They were murdered ... by the terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” Edie Lutnick, executive director of The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, said of the victims.
Lutnick’s brother Howard Lutnick is chief executive of the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage firm that lost two-thirds of its staff -- more than 600 people. A brother of theirs died in the attack.
“We will be victims no more,” Lutnick said drawing cheers from the rally organized by the 9/11 Never Forget Coalition. She called on the U.S. Congress to block the trial.
Other speakers, including people who were badly injured on September 11, blasted the trial as “a multimillion-dollar charade” and an “exercise in global Jihadist recruitment” which would only give terrorists a platform.
Sixteen years ago “they attacked and we indicted,” said former assistant U.S. attorney Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing case, tried at the same federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.
“We know it’s a war ... You don’t bring your enemies to a courthouse,” said McCarthy, a contributor to the conservative periodical National Review who criticized Obama during the 2008 election campaign for his “collaboration with radical, America-hating leftists.”
Holder has defended his decision to move the trials from the prison camp at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to a federal criminal court in Manhattan, saying the men can be tried fairly and successfully in New York.
But the decision has divided the families of victims. Some say the trial is an opportunity to face the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks and help bring closure, but others say the men should be treated like war criminals.
No date has been announced for the suspects’ transfer to New York or their first appearance in court.
Reporting by Chris Michaud, editing by Anthony Boadle
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