Government prosecutors for 9/11 attacks are in plea talks that could avert death penalty for accused

U.S. government prosecutors have been struggling to bring case to trial for over decade

Updated: March 15, 2022 - 1:15pm

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Prosecutors have begun talks with the attorneys for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and his four co-defendants to negotiate a plea deal that would eliminate the possibility of execution.

The case has been pending in pretrial proceedings pertaining to the CIA's use of torture on the accused since the George W. Bush administration. A guilty plea in exchange for life sentences could bring about a conclusion to the seemingly infinite case, for which there remains no trial date.

Though a resolution is not expected soon, The New York Times reports that life sentences for the accused could potentially force the Biden administration to rethink its goal of shutting down Guantánamo Bay, the U.S. Naval facility in which 9/11-related detainees are being held.

In past talks, the accused demanded that they serve out their sentences at Guantánamo, where they eat and pray together.

The demand would allow them to not have to serve up to 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, which is a likelier outcome at other U.S. Supermax facilities.

Now, after another round of setbacks revolving around one defendant's lead lawyer resigning, the legal teams are attempting to arrange pretrial agreements for all five cases.

According to the Times, the Biden administration has declined to weigh in and will not be taking a position on any of cases.

Instead, the administration has expressed its continued commitment to reducing the population of prisoners at Guantánamo – now 38 detainees. 

The five men in question at the moment are accused of training, directing and providing travel arrangements and resources to the 19 hijackers who slammed four commercial airlines into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Their actions led to the deaths of nearly 3,000 people on 9/11. 

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