Hours before dawn on March 1, 2003, the U.S. scored its most thrilling victory against the plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks: the capture of a disheveled Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, hauled away by intelligence agents from a hideout in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. As Sunday’s 21st anniversary of the terror attacks nears, Mohammed and four other men accused of 9/11-related crimes still sit in a U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, their planned trials before a military tribunal endlessly postponed, reports the Associated Press. The latest setback came last month when pretrial hearings scheduled for early fall were canceled. The delay was part of a string of disappointments for relatives of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attack. They’ve long hoped that a trial would bring closure and resolve unanswered questions.
If convicted, Mohammed could face the death penalty. James Connell, an attorney for one of Mohammed’s co-defendants — one accused of transferring money to 9/11 attackers — confirmed reports both sides are still “attempting to reach a pretrial agreement” that could avoid a trial and result in lesser but still lengthy sentences. The difficulty in holding a trial for Mohammed and other Guantanamo prisoners is partly rooted in what the U.S. did with him after his 2003 capture. Mohammed and his co-defendants were initially held in secret prisons abroad. Seeking information that might lead to the capture of other al-Qaida figures, Central Intelligence Agency operatives subjected them to enhanced interrogation techniques that were tantamount to torture, human rights groups say. Mohammed was waterboarded — made to feel that he was drowning — 183 times. A Senate investigation found that the interrogations didn’t lead to any valuable intelligence. There was been seemingly endless pretrial litigation over whether FBI reports on suspects' statements can be used against them — a process not subject to speedy trial rules used in civilian courts.