Trial in 9/11 case at Guantanamo gets 2021 start date

In this file photo taken on September 11, 2001, firefighters make their way through the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York after two hijacked planes flew into the landmark skyscrapers. AFP file photo

A military judge on Friday set a date in early 2021 for the start of the long-stalled war crimes trial of five men being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison on charges of planning and aiding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Air Force Col. W. Shane Cohen set the start date in an order setting motion and evidentiary deadlines in a case that has been bogged down in pretrial litigation. The five defendants were arraigned in May 2012.

In setting the Jan. 11, 2021, start, Cohen noted that the trial at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "will face a host of administrative and logistics challenges." The U.S. has charged the five 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 Sept. 11 plot.

They could get the death penalty if convicted at the military commission, which combines elements of civilian and military law.

The five defendants include Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, a senior al-Qaida figure who has portrayed himself as the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and other terrorist plots.

Mohammad and his four co-defendants have been held at Guantanamo since September 2006 after several years in clandestine CIA detention facilities following their capture.

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