Leahy Defends Decision To Try Terrorists In U.S.

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy is defending a decision by the Obama Administration to bring five alleged terrorists to the U.S. for trial in the federal court system.

Leahy says it’s important to show the world that it’s possible to achieve justice in the cases, using an open court system.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Last week, the Obama Administration announced that it’s decided to prosecute five alleged terrorists in federal court in New York City rather than seek convictions using military tribunals.

The group includes Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is accused of being the master mind of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee and on Wednesday his panel took testimony on this issue from Attorney General Eric Holder.

Leahy says he strongly supports the Administration’s plan:

(Leahy) "I think it’s a good idea. They killed Americans on American soil, they ought to face justice in our American courts. There are some people who say they’re afraid of them being here. I’m not afraid of them – they’re murderers, they ought to be prosecuted as murderers and we ought to do everything possible to convict them."

(Kinzel) And Leahy says the decision to use the federal court system sends an important message to the world community:

(Leahy) "We’re strong enough to stand up to the rest of the world and say ‘we don’t do like some other countries do, having secret courts or courts behind closed doors. We’re proud of our system – the rest of the world, watch how we handle murderers and let this be an example to anybody else who wants to come onto our soil and murder Americans’.  We did this with Timothy McVeigh, we can do it with them."

(Kinzel) Critics of the plan argue that holding the trials in the United States will give the defendants a greater opportunity to publicize their political philosophies – Leahy doesn’t agree:

(Leahy) "In a military tribunal they’d be able to stand up and give their statements. That’s happened before – they can give their statements no matter where they were. And I think, let them. The American people are going to see and the world’s going to see them for what they are and they’re going to see them convicted."

(Kinzel) Leahy says he also supports efforts to use federal funds to modify prison facilities in this country so that alleged terrorists being held at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay can be transferred to these renovated jails.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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