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Lower Manhattan Residents Tell Council They'll Continue Opposition to 9/11 Trials

Sunday, February 14, 2010

As Obama Administration officials appeared to revive the idea of using a military tribunal to try self-proclaimed 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators, New York City residents packed a City Council hearing yesterday to give testimony on the potential impact of a civilian trial in Lower Manhattan. WNYC's Bob Hennelly has more.

REPORTER: It was an unusual site: Republican Congressman Peter King getting a loud round of applause and partial standing O from a chamber filled with Democrats after he blasted the Obama Administration for its plan to try Guantanamo detainees in Lower Manhattan. Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who chairs the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee conceded that politically she had little in common with the conservative congressman, but on this one issue she said King is in touch with her constituency in a way the White House is not.

CHIN: When you talk about grass-roots democracy, that is what happened here when the Obama Administration first announced the trials, you say, yeah a lot people were gung-ho about it. But not the community. The people in the community they were the ones that started talking about it and saying, "Hey, we can't have it here.

REPORTER: King, who is the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, told reporters afterward that, thanks to local political pressure, he was pretty confident that the administration would reverse itself, but not until they were prepared to lay out an alternative plan. He says the Obama White House was now boxed in.

KING: If the President says you can't have the trial in a community where the mayor and the police commissioner is opposed to it, you're not going to find any government anywhere in the country I don't think which is going to want to have these trials, so therefore it is going to be impossible to have a civilian trial.

REPORTER: King said that the Attorney General Eric Holder's plan also suffered legal setbacks both overseas and here in the United States. Specifically, a British Court forced Prime Minister Brown's government to disclose what it termed were cruel, inhuman and degrading techniques used by the United States on a Guantanamo detainee who had originally resided in the UK. And, more locally, a federal judge sitting in Manhattan raised concerns that a terrorism suspect who had been held for five years might be able to claim he was not getting a speedy trial.

For WNYC, I'm Bob Hennelly.

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