WASHINGTON — The Justice Department probably will never receive congressional approval to put the alleged Sept. 11 conspirators on trial in a civilian court, a key senator on the issue of terrorism trials said yesterday.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he believes he has the votes in the Senate to block alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed from a civilian court.
The suspect and his alleged conspirators should be tried in military court at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Graham said.
“I think it is a big mistake to criminalize the war, to take someone you’ve held under the law of war as an enemy combatant for six or seven years, then put them in civilian court. It is a disaster waiting to happen,’’ he said on “Fox News Sunday.’’
Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Mohammed would be tried in federal civilian court in New York City. In the face of resistance from local politicians, that plan is now all but dead.
Raising security concerns, conservative Republicans staunchly oppose trials in US civilian courts for terrorism suspects, saying they should be tried instead before military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. President Obama’s administration said both civilian courts and military commissions should be available.
Critics of that approach argue that trials in civilian courts run a greater risk of acquittals because of rules of evidence and rights afforded to suspects.