WASHINGTON - US Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday that accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators would already have been convicted and set for execution if they had been tried in civilian courts as Holder wanted in 2009.
At a news conference about corporate fraud, Holder was asked if he stood by his decision to try the men in federal court in New York, a plan the Obama administration reversed in the face of opposition from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and lawmakers in Washington.
"The opposition was largely political in nature, and I think this is an example of what happens when politics gets into matters that ought to be simply decided by lawyers and national security experts," said Holder, the chief US law enforcement officer.
Mohammed and the four others instead face a proceeding in a military commission at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for allegedly training and funding the hijackers who flew planes into the Pentagon and New York's World Trade Center. They could be executed if convicted of charges that include murdering 2,976 people.
Military prosecutors hope to start a trial in January 2015, but no date has been set.