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9/11 Suspects to Use Trial to Explain Themselves

Since Attorney General Eric Holder announced the alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks would be tried in New York, there’s been much speculation about whether they’ll plead guilty, as some have suggested they would before military commissions, or insist on a trial and put on a defense.

Scott Fenstermaker, a lawyer defending one of the men, told The Associated Press that they won’t deny their role, but will use the opportunity to “explain what happened and why they did it,” and they will provide “their assessment of foreign policy.” Fenstermaker reportedly met with his client, Ammar al Baluchi, a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), at the Guantanamo Bay prison last week. Baluchi told him the men had discussed the trial among themselves.

Critics of the trial have complained, among other things, that KSM — who has boasted that he was the lead planner behind the 9/11 attacks, as well as many others — will use the opportunity to grandstand and spread terrorist propaganda. The alternative, however, would be to not allow them to speak at their own trial, which would hardly showcase the American principles of open government and fair trials that the attorney general presumably wants to highlight.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd told the AP on Sunday that he’s not worried that the men will dominate the trial or be able to use it as a vehicle to win new recruits. “We have full confidence in the ability of the courts and in particular the federal judge who may preside over the trial to ensure that the proceeding is conducted appropriately and with minimal disruption, as federal courts have done in the past,” he said.

The Southern District of New York, where the Justice Department wants to hold the trial, is the most experienced of all U.S. federal courts in handling major international terrorism cases.

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