Holder said at a press briefing that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other men, "accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks" will be prosecuted in federal court. Holder said that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and four other military detainees charged with the 2000 "terrorist attack on the USS Cole," will be prosecuted before a military commission.
"I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years," Holder said. "The alleged 9/11 conspirators will stand trial in our justice system before an impartial jury under long-established rules and procedures."
Holder continued, "I want to assure the American people that we will prosecute these cases vigorously, and we will pursue the maximum punishment available. These were extraordinary crimes and so we will seek maximum penalties. Federal rules allow us to seek the death penalty for capital offenses, and while we will review the evidence and circumstances following established protocols, I fully expect to direct prosecutors to seek the death penalty against each of the alleged 9/11 conspirators."
Holder's announcement drew mostly favorable comment from civil liberties groups that have opposed the use of military commissions.
Human Rights First hailed the "decision to move the trials of the 5 Guantanamo detainees accused in the 9/11 conspiracy from the discredited Guantanamo military commissions and into federal courts to face justice."
The American Civil Liberties Union called the action a "major victory for due process and the rule of law," but also criticized the administration for continuing "to use the illegitimate military commissions system to prosecute some Guantánamo detainees, including the defendant accused in the attack on the U.S.S. Cole."