By Arun Kumar
Washington, Nov 11 (IANS) The US is "close" to a final decision on where to hold the trial of Pakistani 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged conspirators, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.
"We have been working on it, and I think we are close to a decision," Holder told reporters Wednesday nearly a year after he announced his initial and controversial decision to prosecute the five in a New York civilian court.
Speaking alongside Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and their Canadian counterparts, he declined to offer any specifics on possible timing for a decision over where to prosecute the five Al Qaeda associates.
The decision will be guided by "what is best for the case and for justice in that case," Holder said adding, "I would hope that whatever the decision is, it would be one that would be judged on the merits."
Asked if the coming Republican takeover of the House of Representatives will make it harder for the Obama administration to prosecute the alleged 9/11 conspirators in a civilian court, Holder parried saying only that the process is "an on-going one."
Within an hour of Holder's remarks, Republican representative Peter T. King, who is expected to become chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee in January, called on the Obama administration to have the military prosecute the case.
"I urge Attorney General Holder not to hold any 9/11 trials in New York or anywhere in the United States. These 9/11 terrorists should be tried before a military commission at Guantanamo," King said in the statement.
Some Justice Department officials cited by CNN insisted the Justice Department has already made a decision: the same one that was announced in November 2009, placing the trials in New York City.
Within months of that decision, however, Holder and the Obama administration backed off, thanks in large part to opposition from New York City officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Republican lawmakers in Washington.
Democrat senator Chuck Schumer has also opposed any civilian prosecution in his state.