Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, will stand trial with four other men on war crimes charges at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba beginning in early 2021, a military judge said Friday.
Air Force Col. W. Shane Cohen set a start date of Jan. 11, 2021, in an order setting motion and evidentiary deadlines. He did so in a case that has been bogged down in pretrial litigation, noting that the trial "will face a host of administrative and logistics challenges."
Mohammad and his co-defendants are charged with crimes including terrorism, hijacking and 2,976 counts of murder for their alleged roles planning and providing logistical support to the Sept. 11 plot. They could get the death penalty if convicted at the military commission, which combines elements of civilian and military law.
The quintet have been held at Guantanamo Bay since September 2006 after several years in clandestine CIA detention facilities following their capture.
According to Cohen's order, prosecutors must provide the defense team with a list of trial materials by Oct. 1. In the interim, the judge will hold a series of hearings with witnesses to determine whether or not confessions the defendants made to FBI agents in 2006 will be admissible in court. The defense team argues that after the men were captured in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003, they were tortured by the CIA, and thus the confessions should be thrown out.
The criminal case alleges that Mohammad, a senior Al Qaeda figure, was the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks, in which 19 hijackers took over four commercial airliners, crashing two of them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, one into the Pentagon and another into a field in Shanksville, Pa.
The other four defendants are Mohammad's nephew, Ammar al-Baluchi, Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Mustafa al Hawsawi, who allegedly helped to train the hijackers and facilitate the attacks by providing travel and finances to the assailants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.