LONDON – U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Friday he hopes the men charged with participating in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks aren't executed if found guilty in order to avoid creating any martyrs.
Mukasey said many terrorists want to be martyrs and that by sentencing them to death, U.S. authorities risk granting that wish. He made the comments while answering a question after a talk at the London School of Economics.
Mukasey said, however, that the punishment would be fitting if the accused are executed.
"One of them at least is proud enough of it to have written to his wife that he thinks he is innocent because it was only 3,000 (people who died in the attacks)," he said. "If those are not poster children for the death penalty I don't know who is."
Still, Mukasey said he leans against the death penalty in this case "many of them want to be martyrs."
The attorney general said his view was a personal opinion. The Justice Department will participate in the trial, he said, but the Defense Department will be in charge.
The U.S. military is moving ahead with plans to try six men at Guantanamo Bay in connection with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but only one military defense lawyer has been assigned to the case. None of the defendants has seen a defense lawyer yet.
Prosecutors filed charges Feb. 11 against the six high-profile detainees, who include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, and Mohammed al-Qahtani, who allegedly would have been one of the hijackers if immigration officers had not prevented him from entering the United States.