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|01-21-2009, 06:27 PM||#1|
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9/11 Families Outraged
9/11 Families Outraged by Obama Call to Suspend Guantanamo War Crimes Trials
Families of victims of terrorist attacks say they are outraged by President Obama's call to halt the trials of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Family members of people killed on September 11, 2001, and in other terror attacks say they are outraged by President Obama's draft order calling for the suspension of war crimes trials of prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay.
"To me it's beyond comprehension that they would take the side of the terrorists," said Peter Gadiel, whose son, James, was killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. "Many of these people have been released and been right back killing, right back at their terrorist work again."
Obama's request on the first full day of his presidency came as a draft order was being prepared ordering the closing of the Guantanamo prison within a year. A judge responded by halting the case against a Canadian detainee accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan, issuing a 120-day continuance in the case.
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"I see no reason why we should delay these proceedings. Let justice be served," said Jefferson Crowther, whose 24-year-old son, Welles, was killed in the Twin Towers after he saved the lives of several others.
Critics blasted Obama's decision, which they said would delay justice in cases that have already been waiting for the better part of a decade.
"There is no need to suspend [the military tribunals]. There is no reason why [Obama] can't conduct a concurrent review at the same time that the military commission process is moving forward to render justice for the terrorists that have murdered thousands of people," said former Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, who lost 17 sailors during a suicide bombing attack on the USS Cole in 2000. A suspect in the case is being held at Guantanamo.
"It demeans their deaths because we seem to be more concerned with the rights of detainees than we are with the justice that is being denied to my sailors that were killed," Lippold told FOXNews.com.
Obama's request may mark the end of the system used by the Bush administration to try terror suspects. War crimes charges against 21 men are pending at Guantanamo, though the detainees may have to be moved to America or extradited, depending on the administration's plans for them.
The Obama administration is calling for a systematic review of each detainee's case to determine who can be released and who cannot. "It is in the interests of the United States to review whether and how such individuals can and should be prosecuted," says the draft order released on Wednesday.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said he would take the detainees in his own district, which lies just a few miles from the field near Shanksville, Pa., where United Flight 93 crashed after it was hijacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, killing all 44 people aboard.
"Sure, I'd take them. They're no more dangerous in my district than in Guantanamo," Murtha said, calling the Guantanamo prison a "sore in the United States' moral standards."
"There's no reason not to put them in prisons in the United States and handle them the way they would handle any other prisoners."
But some 9/11 families said they were concerned that if the trials were moved to criminal courts in the U.S., the proceedings would put civilians at risk.
"The safest place to have these trials is Guantanamo Bay. If they were to move to the homeland it would endanger all of us," said Lorraine Arias Believeau of New Jersey, whose brother, Adam, was killed on 9/11.
But human rights groups welcomed the president's draft order, calling it an important first step for his administration.
"It is a major positive step in the right direction," said Jamil Dakwar, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union who observed pretrial hearings at Guantanamo this week.
If transferred to U.S. courts, some of the detainees might be freed because of the aggressive interrogation techniques used against them. Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11 plot, was interrogated so severely at Guantanamo Bay that Bush administration officials said he was tortured and did not refer his case for prosecution.
Some of the accused terrorists, meanwhile, were impatient to have their trials proceed.
"We should continue so we don't go backward, we go forward," Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks told the judge in their case. He is among five detainees accused in the attacks who have asked to be given the death penalty, believing they will become martyrs if they are executed.
Lippold, who helped determine detainee policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a strategic planner, said he feels he has a large investment "in making sure that these guys do not return to the fight, that they do not kill again."
He said moving the cases to civilian courts was primarily a political act and could make it difficult to proceed with cases without compromising vital intelligence sources and methods.
"The whole issue of detainees has become so politically charged that people forget that Americans lives are at stake," he told FOXNews.com.
Crowther, a volunteer fireman for decades, said he does not care where the trials take place, but he wants to see more action from his government.
"I'm constantly doing my part -- I want my government to do its part for me. I want those people who participated in my son's death and the death of some 3,000 others, I want to see them punished, if found guilty, in a court of law," he said.
If the cases don't go to trial, Crowther said, "many, many families are going to be very upset."
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