Volume 20, Number 47 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 6 - April 12, 2011
9/11 Trials Not Being Held Downtown
Community officials expressed approval after the announcement Monday that the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, will not be held in Lower Manhattan, but in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after a move by Congress to block Guantanomo detainees from being moved to the U.S.
“We are extremely relieved to hear that the administration has decided not to hold the trials in Lower Manhattan, where they would have had a severe and long-term impact on the safety and quality of life of residents and workers,” said Julie Menin, Manhattan Community Board 1 chairperson, in a statement.
Mohammed and four other 9/11 suspects had been expected to be prosecuted in a civilian court in Lower Manhattan, but the restrictions imposed by Congress made that impossible.
Local leaders are now partially relieved, as they had feared the interruptions that such a trial would be bring to the area.
“The Federal Courthouse in Lower Manhattan was never a wise first choice as a venue for the trials,” said Robert R. Douglass, chairman of the Alliance for Downtown New York, in a statement. “It is situated near some the most densely populated business addresses and residential neighborhoods in America, and at the heart of a regional transportation network through which hundreds of thousands of people pass each day.”
“Lower Manhattan is back, but the trials would’ve slowed the momentum of our recovery,” said Downtown Alliance President Elizabeth H. Berger.
However, a trial in Guantanamo Bay means the suspects will face a military panel instead of a civilian court.
“As the community attacked on September 11, 2001, we have always maintained that the trials should be civilian and not military-run,” said Menin. “The federal courts have resulted in much tougher sentences for terrorists than the military tribunals and have resulted in hundreds of successful convictions.”
Menin had previously advocated for a civilian trial to be held at a military base that would be less disruptive, but still in the Southern District of New York.
House Speaker Still Not on Board with 9/11 Visit
New York Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D), Jerrold Nadler (D) and Peter King (R) have requested a special congressional delegation visit to New York City to honor the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the opening of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Minority Leader Nancy Peloski immediately supported the visit but House Speaker John Boener still has not said yes.
In a letter sent last week to both House leaders, the three legislators said, “A visit to New York […] would send a strong message to the nation and to the world that, 10 years later, we remain unified; that the spirit of New York City and the nation are strong and unshaken; that our commitment to freedom has never wavered; and that we will always honor and remember the victims, first responders, survivors and their families.”
Members of Congress would participate in tours of the museum and Ground Zero, as well as official ceremonies with those affected by the attacks.
Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steele told the Huffington Post that the Speaker would not make a snap decision but that “We’ll certainly take a look at the request.”