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Terror suspect to plead guilty -

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Terror suspect to plead guilty

The World Today - Tuesday, 9 December , 2008 12:18:00

ELEANOR HALL: The man accused of masterminding the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and
Washington says he wants to plead guilty.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects shocked the Military Commission hearing at
Guantanamo Bay overnight by asking to enter the pleas. But civil liberties groups say the Bush
administration should not tout this as a victory for US justice, because torture has tainted the
process.

A judge is yet to decide whether the guilty pleas for all five suspects can be accepted. But for
the first time the US military has flown relatives of some of the 9/11 victims to Cuba for the
pre-trial hearing.

Brendan Trembath has our report.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: At the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is one of the
most high profile detainees.

He and four others have faced a pre-trial hearing and made a surprise announcement.

STACY SULLIVAN: Today Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other defendants charged with the 9/11
attacks, told the judge that they wanted to plead guilty.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Stacy Sullivan is a counter terrorism adviser at Human Rights Watch in New York.

The group had observer status at the pre trial hearing.

Also watching on were relatives of people killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Alice Hoagland's son was on the hijacked plane which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

She seems to have no doubt that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is guilty but says she hopes he's spared the
death penalty.

ALICE HOAGLAND: We should allow this man to live to show that we have more respect for human life
than he has shown toward us. Here's a man and his bloody henchmen who would kill us by the
thousands on our own soil if they could.

And yet we are weighing his life and their lives in our hands, and doesn't that make us somehow
admirable, exemplary and would he not take away a lesson from that, that human life has value?

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Human rights groups also oppose the death penalty.

Stacy Sullivan from Human Rights Watch says they also have an issue with the trial process and any
pleas the men might make.

STACY SULLIVAN: We fear that these confessions might be coerced. If these trials were taken to the
Federal Court, there would be a full hearing to determine what manner of abuse went on. But because
the Military Commission was essentially created to cover up abuse, we may never know if these pleas
are accepted.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Some people might say that given the allegations against these men, they're
dangerous people or possibly dangerous people, and don't deserve the sort of justice normally found
in the United States.

What would you say to that?

STACY SULLIVAN: We believe that everyone, no matter how heinous the crime deserves to have a fair
hearing.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Human rights groups say Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was held in secret prisons and
subjected to harsh treatment such as water boarding.

A prisoner is tied up and gagged and their head drenched with water.

The US President-elect Barack Obama has said his administration will stop authorities using harsher
methods in interrogations.

He's also promised to shut down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay commonly known as 'Gitmo'.

Stacy Sullivan from Human Rights Watch says it's a good decision though will take time to
implement.

STACY SULLIVAN: We still have 250 men there, about 50 of them have said that they don't want to go
home to their native countries because they fear that they'll be tortured should they do so. So you
either have to give them asylum in the United States or find other countries that are willing to
re-settle them which is no small task.

And there's the 19 men who are facing charges before the Military Commissions and the Obama
administration will have to determine if it wants to charge those men in US federal courts if it
wants to create a new national security court to charge them which we think is a terrible idea
because I think the Federal Courts are perfectly capable of doing it and a national security court
would be subject to all kinds of challenges just as Military Commissions are.

And thirdly the Obama administration could try them before regular military courts if they've
actually committed war crimes.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Stacy Sullivan from Human Rights Watch in New York. That report from Brendan
Trembath.