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9/11 Families Prepare for Guantanamo Arraignment


At left a March 1, 2003 photo obtained by the Associated Press shows Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind. (AP Photo/www.muslm.net)

Nearly 11 years after the 2001 terror attacks, family members of some of the victims will watch via closed-circuit TV as the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks and four co-defendants are arraigned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“I want to bear witness that in fact these people are brought to justice,” said Al Santora, whose firefighter son Christopher died at the World Trade Center.


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Santora and his wife, Maureen, plan to watch Saturday’s arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the others at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, one of the military bases where the proceeding will be broadcast live for victims’ family members, survivors and emergency personnel who responded to the attacks.

Mohammed and the others are expected to be arraigned on charges that include terrorism and murder. They could get the death penalty if convicted in the attacks that sent hijacked airliners slamming into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. The trial is probably at least a year away.

Retired firefighter Jim Riches poses for a picture with a photography of his son near his home in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Six victims’ families chosen by lottery have traveled to Guantanamo to see the arraignment in person. It is not clear how many others will watch at military bases including Fort Hamilton and Fort Meade in Maryland.

Alan Linton of Frederick, Md., who lost his son Alan Jr., an investment banker, at the World Trade Center, said he and his wife put their names in the lottery for the Cuba trip but they aren’t interested in watching a video feed of the arraignment.

“That’s just the not the same as being there to me,” Linton said. “Going to Fort Meade, it’s kind of like watching television.”

Whether they plan to watch or not, family members expressed frustration that it’s taken so long to bring the Sept. 11 conspirators to justice.

The administration of President Barack Obama dropped earlier military-commission charges against them when it decided in late 2009 to try them in federal court in New York. But Congress blocked the civilian trials amid opposition to bringing the defendants to U.S. soil, especially to a courthouse located just blocks from the trade center site.

Santora said he hopes the trial can proceed quickly once it starts.

“They have tons and tons of evidence and they’ve already admitted their guilt,” he said. “So I don’t know why the trial should be long.”

Retired firefighter Jim Riches, whose son was also a firefighter who died at the trade center, said some of victims’ parents did not live long enough to see the trial.

“We were promised swift justice by Barack Obama,” he said. “And we’re still waiting.”

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Associated Press writer Meghan Barr in New York City and David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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