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Families of victims react to potential plea deals for 9/11 defendants

After years of setbacks, Guantanamo prosecutors are exploring plea agreements with five men accused of masterminding the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Families of victims react to potential plea deals for 9/11 defendants
Posted at 12:17 PM, Sep 11, 2023

Twenty-two years after the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil, many victims' relatives still feel they've been denied justice. 

"We have had no accountability and no justice for the murder of our loved ones," said Terry Strada, who lost her husband, Tom, and some 20 friends who were all in the north World Trade Center tower on 9/11.

Strada says the anniversary is painfully difficult every single year. But this year, she says it's even worse because of a Pentagon letter sent to victims' families last month.

It informs them that plea deals are being explored for the alleged mastermind behind the terrorist attacks and four of his co-conspirators. It's seeking to have them "accept criminal responsibility for their actions and plead guilty ... in exchange for not receiving the death penalty."

"I am extremely upset by the idea that after 20 years of waiting for a trial, that this could all be taken away from us," said Strada.

SEE MORE: Do you remember where you were during 9/11?

Brett Eagleson, who lost his father on 9/11, says a plea deal would "muzzle the truth" and that he wants to hear what the five defendants "have to say about who helped them, about who supported them, about what the Saudi government role was in 9/11."

Other victims' relatives, like Terry Rockefeller, whose sister died on 9/11, have long supported plea agreements as a way to finally get a resolution on the case.

The prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees has long been troubled by legal challenges — particularly over the fact that the men were repeatedly tortured while being interrogated in CIA custody in the early 2000s.

Legal expert Jonathan Hafetz says the torture and the creation of flawed military tribunals in the wake of 9/11 "have led to plea negotiations being the only way out to get a resolution of the case other than the defendants basically languishing in jail for the rest of their lives and dying without any judgment against them."

SEE MORE: Remains of 2 more 9/11 victims identified 22 years after attacks

Last week, President Biden rejected a list of proposed conditions sought by the five Guantanamo Bay defendants — but negotiations have not ended.

In a statement to Scripps News, the White House says it is "committed to ensuring that the military commissions process is fair and delivers justice to the victims, survivors, families, and those accused of crimes."

Pre-trial hearings in the war court at Guantanamo Bay have been on hold while officials assess the mental competence of one of the defendants to stand trial. Hearings are set to resume Sept. 18.

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