Five Guantanamo Bay pleas

December 8, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Monday, December 8):

Five men — including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who are charged with plotting the September 11 attacks — have told a military judge today that they wish to plead guilty and confess their crimes. This will avoid their being tried, and set up their execution.

“This serves to reinforce the US Attorney General Michael C. Mukasey’s position that seeking the death penalty against these people makes little sense,” said Reprieve Executive Director, Clare Algar. “If the five want to become martyrs, what is the point of handing them their wish rather than a sentence of life in prison?”

By entering a guilty plea, they are seeking to obtain a death penalty verdict before President-elect Obama takes office and makes good on his promises to close Guantánamo Bay and regularise the judicial proceedings.

“Pressing forward with this is a last ditch effort by the Bush Administration to make the catastrophic Guantánamo experiment seem to have achieved something,” said Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve. “It is another poisoned chalice Bush is leaving for Barack Obama, who will have to reverse the death sentences to fulfil his promise to dissolve the Guantánamo legacy.”

After the years of isolation and torture, Reprieve reports that at least one of the prisoners, Ramzi bin al Shibh, is so mentally ill that his military lawyers have found him to be mentally unfit to proceed. “Pressing forward with an execution under these circumstances would see Guantánamo plumb yet another depth of lawlessness,” said Stafford Smith.

Back story:

The five prisoners are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Walid bin Attash; Ramzi bin al Shibh; Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi; and Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali (Ammar al-Baluchi).

“U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Friday he is ‘kind of hoping’ the prisoners facing military trials in connection with the September 11 attacks do not receive the death penalty, which would fulfill their desire to be martyrs.” (March 14, 2008, CNN,)

For further information, please contact Clive Stafford Smith (07940 347125; clivess@mac.com); or Reprieve’s Press Office on 020 7427 1099.

Note for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at GuantánamoBay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

ReprievePO Box 52742London EC4P 4WSTel: 020 7353 4640Fax: 020 7353 4641Email: info@reprieve.org.ukWebsite: www.reprieve.org.uk

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Martha Lane Fox, Sir John Mortimer, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner