Washington: The Pentagon appointee overseeing the Guantanamo war crimes court has refused to drop conspiracy charges against five accused plotters of the 9/11 attacks despite the chief prosecutor`s concerns that the charge might not withstand appeals.
The decision announced by the Pentagon means the alleged mastermind of the hijacked plane attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four other captives could be tried on a charge that the prosecutor acknowledged might not have been recognised as a war crime when the attacks occurred in 2001, reports The Dawn.
In addition to the conspiracy charge, the defendants face murder and other charges that could lead to their execution if they are convicted in the tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba. The chief prosecutor, Brigadier General Mark Martins, asked the Pentagon appointee, Admiral (retd) Bruce MacDonald, to dismiss the conspiracy count last week.
The prosecutor said doing so would remove uncertainty that could taint or delay the case. But MacDonald said dismissal at the present would be premature, because an appellate decision on the validity of the conspiracy charge was still pending in a Washington court.
Defence lawyers have argued for years that conspiracy was not recognised as a war crime in 2001, when al Qaeda operatives slammed hijacked passenger jets into the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
The defendants are being tried under a law passed by the US Congress in 2006 and revised in 2009, which designated conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism as war crimes.