Sixteen years after the tragic terror attacks that took place in New York, the five men who stand accused have yet to face trial in America.
On September 11, 2001, there were a series of coordinated terror attacks in USA. Four planes from major airlines were hijacked by 19 members belonging to the al Qaeda terror outfit. Two of these planes flew right into the Twin Towers, which were part of the World Trade Center (WTC). The two towers collapsed as a result of the collision. The third plane crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth plane was meant to crash in Washington. However, the passengers tried to take control of the plane and as a result it crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
The attacks were one of the most devastating terror attacks to hit the American soil. It resulted in the deaths of 2,997 people and injured 6,000 others. It also caused widespread damage to infrastructure and property, which has been estimated at $10 billion. In 2011, under the command of then President Barack Obama, a covert operation was initiated to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He had been living in a compound with his family in Waziristan in Pakistan and he was shot and killed.
On November 2008, Mumbai fell victim to a series of coordinated terror attacks. The attacks were carried out in Mumbai by 10 members of Lakshar-e-Taiba, a terror outfit based out of Pakistan. There were 12 coordinated shootings and bombings that took place across the city. This was one of the deadliest terror attacks in India’s history. A total of 164 people were killed and at least 308 were injured.
For nearly 15 years, five men who have been accused of perpetuating the 9/11 attacks have been detained by the US government. They are - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ammar al-Baluchi and Mustafa al-Hawsawi. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been accused of being the architect of 9/11. The men reportedly trained the hijackers from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The men have been detained in Guantanamo Bay. There have been no trials held against these men in the years that they have been detained. The five men were arraigned in 2012 but pre-trial motions filed by defense lawyers have caused the case to stall. The lawyers have also argued that the men had been subjected to torture.
Shayana Kadidal, a lawyer working for the Center for Constitutional Rights spoke to al Jazeera noting, “It perplexes me that this isn't a cause for more outrage back in the US. According to the government, you have the person by far most responsible for planning 9/11 and a couple of people just below him responsible for executing the plot. They've been sitting in detention for the most part of 14 years, without trial, and, by all appearances, any trial is years and years off.”
In case of the Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Kasab was the only attacker who was caught alive by the police. In 2010, he was held guilty of 80 offenses and he was sentenced to death. Kasab was hanged in 2012. In the same year, another one of the accused, Zabiuddin Ansari was deported from Saudi Arabia. In 2016, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Other arrests have been made in relation to the case.
However, Hafiz Saeed, the co-founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba is currently in Pakistan. He is under house arrest. The group he founded called the Jamaat-ud-Dawah has announced that it will be contesting in the upcoming elections in Pakistan.
Our assessment is that the five men exist in a state of limbo within the walls of Gitmo. Experts believe that it could be years if not decades before a trial is ever held. This would go against the tenets of justice guaranteed in one of the biggest democracies in the world. India, on the other hand, has been able to fast track court proceedings and trials once the perpetrators of 26/11 were captured.