US Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference the decision was necessary because Congress had imposed “unwise and unwarranted restrictions” that blocked the administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the US.
His announcement was an embarrassing reversal of the administration’s decision in November 2009 to try Mohammed in a court near the site of the World Trade Center attack that killed nearly 3,000 people.
The decision was an admission that Obama has not been able to overcome political opposition to his efforts to close the prison for terrorism suspects and enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and try those accused of crimes in US civilian courts.
The decision was praised by local residents in New York and many lawmakers in Congress, with Senator John McCain welcoming “the president’s decision to put aside political differences and seek an accounting for the worst terrorist attacks in our nation’s history”.
Julie Menin, who spearheaded opposition to holding the trials in New York, called the decision a “victory for lower Manhattan and my community”.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer, another opponent, called it “the final nail in the coffin of that wrong-headed idea”.
But others, like Valerie Lucznikowska, said the use of military commissions was “just not satisfying to people who want real justice”. The 72-year-old, whose nephew died in attack, said the military commissions could be viewed by the world as “kangaroo courts”.