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President Biden Rejects Plea Deal Conditions for 9/11 Defendants

U.S. President Joe Biden declined a list of potential plea deal conditions for the five men accused of playing a role in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, according to the White House National Security Council. 

Prosecutors have waited over a year for an answer from the administration about the status of the president’s decision on the deal. The offer was first made in March of 2022 by military prosecutors. 

The five men being held in a U.S. detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba were offered the deal by military prosecutors. In exchange for pleading guilty and receiving a maximum sentence of life in prison they would not face the death penalty. 

Because Biden rejected the additional conditions the chances of reaching a similar deal is unlikely, according to the New York Times.

The five men, including suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, requested accommodations that included assurance that they would not serve their sentencing in solitary confinement and would be able to eat and pray collectively, just as they do now as detainees. 

They also added that they would like to receive treatment for health problems which include brain injuries and sleep disorders they blame on the C.I.A. 's interrogation methods. 

Before being transferred to Guantánamo Bay in 2006, the men were in custody of the C.I.A. and claimed they were tortured by the agency. Because of this the case does not have a trial date, and has been held off in pretrial proceedings for more than a decade. 

A National Security Council Spokesperson stated, “The President does not believe… [the] agreement would not be appropriate in these circumstances”, according to ABC News.

The National Security Council Spokesperson stated that the attacks on 9/11 were the single worst attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor.

Brett Eagleson, son of 9/11 victim Bruce Eagleson, told ABC News “We look forward to the day that we can praise our government for finally giving us justice and holding all parties involved in the attacks accountable.” 

It is important to note that it is not President Biden’s decision to determine an appropriate sentencing. This is the responsibility of the Office of the Convening Authority for the Office of Military Commissions, a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The New York Times reported that some relatives of 9/11 victims want the men to receive capital punishment, but others think that because of the torturous interrogation they experienced by the C.I.A., it is unlikely. 

Last month, the case became more complicated when one of the alleged men involved, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, was said to be unfit to face trial or plead guilty in the death penalty case because a military medical board ruled him incompetent due to mental illness. 

Judge Col. Matthew N. McCall must decide whether to remove him from the case and proceed with the prosecution of the other four men. 

Hearings are scheduled for Sept. 18 at Guantánamo Bay. 

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