NEW YORK - The military tribunal overseeing the case in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, against the five accused plotters of the September 11 attacks has denied a request by defence lawyers to have the conspiracy charges against the individuals dropped.The lead military attorney prosecuting alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi argued on Friday that the conspiracy charges could not be issued as “stand-alone offences” against the accused, said a Pentagon news release.Chief prosecutor Brig Gen Mark Martins cited legal precedents stemming from a decision by the US Court of Appeals to overturn the conviction of Yemeni Salim Ahmed Hamdan in 2008. However, the tribunal denied the request, ruling that there was “substantial uncertainty” whether the Hamdan reversal could apply to the 9/11 detainees.Along with the conspiracy counts, the accused plotters also face a number of other charges connected to their involvement in the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The defendants have been housed at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay of Cuba since the beginning of the military tribunal proceedings.The appeals court in 2008 ruled that Hamdan's role as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's personal driver and bodyguard in 2001 did not constitute “an international war crime”. The Yemeni national was deported to his home country before the appeals court could deliver their decision. At the time of his deportation, Hamdan had spent 66 months in US custody.Martins, who is heading up the case against the remaining 9/11 conspirators requested the conspiracy charges be dropped, based on the appeals court ruling on the Hamdan case. Military officials declined the request to drop the conspiracy counts because the activities taken by the alleged conspirators were viewed as “as a chargeable offence” under current statutes governing international war crimes.

Published in The Nation newspaper on 20-Jan-2013