(New York, NY November 24, 2009) National security experts, a former federal prosecutor, and 9/11 widows are calling for cooler heads to prevail as those opposed to New York-based federal trials for the five Guantanamo detainees accused in the 9/11 conspiracy ramp up their campaign of “fear and fables.”

“Those opposed to federal court trials for these men have speculated about a lot of things our safety, procedural problems, time. I don’t want speculation. I want results. Since the 9/11 attacks, the only forum that has given victims’ families results in the war on terror is our federal courts,” said Lorie Van Auken, a 9/11 widow.

Monica Gabrielle, also a 9/11 widow, added, “Holding these trials in New York City guarantees victims’ families and New Yorkers a front row seat to the justice we deserve and have waited for, for eight long years. It will allow us to watch our Constitution fulfill its promise of protecting our society, and it will mark another chapter in this painful journey to justice.”

In a recent study of 119 terrorism cases with 289 defendants filed since 2001 in the normal federal court system, Human Rights First found that of the 214 defendants whose cases were resolved as of June 2, 2009, 195 were convicted either by verdict or by a guilty plea. By contrast, the military commissions are a failed system that has secured only 3 convictions and their continued use threatens to perpetuate the legacy of failed trial and detention policies at Guantanamo.

Van Auken is not alone is her support for bringing the federal trials to New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Charles Schumer, and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have all voiced support for Attorney General Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 defendants in federal court.

Retired Brigadier General James P. Cullen, a New Yorker and former member of the United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps, agrees, stating, “I lost a good friend at the World Trade Center, and I lost a good friend in Baghdad, but I think that the symbolism of bringing these guys to trial in New York is as equally important as assuring the world that when they are tried, they are going to get a full and fair trial. Bringing them to New York, which was the scene of the crime and the terrible incidents of September 11th, is particularly appropriate. When we convened the Nuremberg Trials, we deliberately chose Nuremberg as the site where we were going to convict those people who had formulated, and the symbol of the formulation had occurred in the city where so much of the horrendous work of the Nazis carried out was first imagined. I think we are going to do the same when we bring these people to New York and conduct their trials here.”

A chief concern among experts who support federal trials for those accused in the 9/11 conspiracy is ending the misconception that these men deserve “warrior status” a distinction that has been one of Al Qaeda’s most effective recruiting tools.

From the organization’s New York City office, Human Rights First President and Chief Executive Officer Elisa Massimino concluded, “The victims of 9/11 and the American public deserve to see justice done, and the best way to achieve that is by prosecuting these men in a credible criminal justice system where the focus will be on their culpability, not on the legitimacy or fairness of the proceedings. Moving these cases out of military commissions and into the federal courts is smart counter-terrorism strategy. It treats the perpetrators as the criminals they are and deprives them of the warrior status they crave. This is an important distinction and will help thwart their ability to recruit others to their cause.”


Published on November 24, 2009


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