WASHINGTON — The joint death-penalty trial for the men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks is set to begin Jan. 11, 2021 at Guantánamo Bay, a military judge said in a court filing Friday.
The United States has charged alleged mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other male co-defendants with war crimes that include terrorism, hijacking and nearly 3,000 counts of murder for their alleged roles planning and providing logistical support to the 9/11 plot.
The military judge, Col. W. Shane Cohen of the Air Force, released a trial schedule on Friday with a list of deadlines to be met starting as early as October in order to continue with the planned 2021 start date. The timetable requires the government to provide proposed evidence and witness lists to the defense by Dec. 1, 2019.
Mohammed was captured by the United States in 2003 in Pakistan and was held at secret C.I.A black sites where waterboarding and other forms of torture were used against prisoners. In 2006, Mohammed was transferred to Guantánamo Bay.
Although the accused men were arraigned in Guantánamo in 2008 and 2012, Friday marked the first time a trial date had been set. Logistical and administrative challenges have long delayed the case from moving forward.
The men were initially charged under President George Bush’s administration at Guantánamo, but the trial stalled when President Barack Obama attempted to move the case out of the military court and to a civilian court in New York City. Obama's proposal was met with significant backlash and the idea was ultimately abandoned.
NBC News reported in 2017 that other complicating factors included the number of motions filed by defense counsel, the government's decision to seek the death penalty and issues of secrecy surrounding the black sites where the defendants were held before being arraigned.