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Opinion: Guantanamo decision tied to Obama's reelection bid

The US will try the plotters behind the September 11 attacks before a military tribunal in Guantanamo instead of a civilian court. This decision was politically calculated, says Deutsche Welle's Daniel Scheschkewitz.

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It's been almost 10 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 took place. High time that the men who allegedly pulled the strings, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, are put to trial. This is owed to the almost 3,000 victims of the attacks on New York and Washington.

But hopes that the United States could prepare a trial before a civilian court for these prisoners, who have been held in the controversial detention camp Guantanamo for the past several years, have proven to be illusive. What's more: Attorney General Eric Holder even had to publicly recall his grand pronouncement of a trial before an ordinary US civilian court - and formally refer the cases of the alleged terrorists to the Defense Department. This clears the way for imminent proceedings before military commissions in Guantanamo.

Daniel Scheschkewitz

Daniel Scheschkewitz comments on world issues from Deutsche Welle's central desk

The Obama administration has thus expressed its distrust of its own rule of law. It buckled under fears that the terror suspects could be acquitted because the charges in a complex legal proceeding could possibly not be substantiated - or, even worse, because their confessions in the past were pressed from them using brutal interrogation methods.

The decision by Attorney General Holder was made just one month after US President Barack Obama lifted a two-year freeze on new military trials for Guantanamo terror suspects. Together, these add up to the realization that the administration has given up distancing itself from the principle of Guantanamo and the anti-terror policies of former President George W. Bush.

US Congress, though, is in part responsible for this unfortunate development. It denied the Department of Justice all means to enable fair proceedings on the US mainland. Not even a proper maximum security prison could be built.

Next year, presidential elections take place in the United States. President Obama is standing for reelection. A failed trial against the top terrorists of September 11 would be a disaster. So Obama would rather play it safe - even if he in the process lives up to his predecessor Bush and cold shoulders the rule of law once again when it comes to fighting terrorism.

Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz / sac
Editor: Rob Mudge

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