PRESIDENT Obama's decision that the five self-confessed terrorists responsible for planning the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center should be tried in a civil Federal Court has legal logic but is likely to lead to a trial of unprecedented complexity.

When the possibility of holding a military trial at Guantanamo Bay was being considered the ring-leader Khalil Sheikh Mohammed and his accomplices said they had no objection provided they knew they would be executed. If they plead guilty in a civil court it may simplify the proceedings to some degree but evidence would still have to be given and tested. In the case of KSM, as he is known, the issue of harsh interrogation would inevitably arise - it has already been established that he was subjected to waterboarding torture 183 times in 2003.

The most time-consuming task will probably be the choice of a jury. How will it be possible to find twelve citizens who can say they have “no personal interest in the case and know of no reason why they cannot render an impartial verdict” and have “no preference or feeling that might influence them in recording a verdict”?

The difficulty in making such statements of impartiality will not be eased by the fact that the trial will take place in Lower Manhattan almost within sight of where the World Trade Center once stood.


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