( dpa )- The US military announced Monday that it will seek the death penalty against six suspects charged with playing key roles in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann said charges will be filed against the admitted mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as well as Mohammed al-Qahtani who is believed to have been the "20th hijacker," and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, the alleged point of contact between the hijackers and al-Qaeda's leadership.
The defendants, held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will face war crimes and other charges at the military commissions ordered by President George W Bush, Hartmann, the Pentagon's legal advisor, said.
The other three defendants are Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Mohammed's nephew and deputy, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi and Walid bin Attash, Hartmann said. There are a total of 169 charges against the six men, and the Pentagon wants them all to be tried together.
The charges must be reviewed and approved by a military official, Susan Crawford, a former military appeals court judge. She can then decide whether the death penalty is warranted under the charges, Hartmann said.
The death penalty cases are likely to intensify criticism of the military commissions, which have been challenged in court. Civil rights advocates have raised questions about the fairness of the tribunals.
Hartmann said each defendant will be entitled to military defence lawyers and could also hire civilian attorneys.