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The uncomfortable trial of the '9/11 Mastermind'

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Photo: Reuters

It will be dramatic certainly. The trial of the man accused of the biggest mass murder on American soil, facing the bereaved and the survivors of the World Trade Centre attacks.

But it will be uncomfortable too. And not just because of the evidence that will be heard against Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the man who says he was responsible for 9/11 "from A to Z" and who will plead guilty.

It'll be uncomfortable because this is the trial President Obama never wanted.

President Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay in 2009 Credit: REUTERS

On his second day in office, he signed an order to close Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of men suspected of terrorism had been held without trial.

If it didn't close within two years, he said, it would be a failure.

It didn't close, partly because of Republican opposition, but partly because he was too timid for a fight over terrorism so early in his administration.

It didn't close, nor did its military court and secret justice system.

A watch tower at Camp X-Ray detention facility in Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base Credit: Reuters

So the trial won't be in a civilian court with twelve ordinary Americans on the jury.

It will start at a specially built court in Guantanamo Bay -Camp Justice- before a military judge.

It will also be uncomfortable because Khalid Sheik Mohammed will use it as a platform to attack America.

And he will detail the torture the CIA admits it carried out on him. It subjected him to simulated drowning 183 times.

Hearing that all over again won't go down well internationally.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before his 2003 capture in Pakistan Credit: Red Cross

If he's found guilty, KSM faces the death penalty. Indeed he says he would welcome it.

President Obama will have the final say on that.

America's leading civil rights organisation says the trial is a terrible mistake, with any verdict being tainted.

It's hard to disagree- just as justice in Northern Ireland was damaged during the Troubles by the introduction of Internment without trial and no-jury courts.

Many Americans will be unhappy. Military trials behind closed doors, they argue, are not what America stands for.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 attacks

Others won't care.

If execution was good enough for the American Timothy McVeigh after he murdered 200 people in Oklahoma City, they'd say, then it's good enough for Mohammed after killing 3,000 in New York and Washington, whether he's convicted by a jury of twelve soldiers or not.

It's not clear when the trial will be. If it's later this year, it will fall in the middle of the Election campaign. That would be extraordinary.

But whenever it starts, it will be extraordinary. And uncomfortable for so many.

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