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The Daily Tar Heel

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MCT) — Five senior members of al-Qaida who are accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks will face a death penalty trial at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay later this year, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the coordinated skyjackings, and four co-defendants will be tried together in a military judicial system that was revamped by the Obama administration in 2009 to give defendants more legal protections and to prohibit the use of evidence obtained through torture.

Retired Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald, the head of the military commissions, officially referred the case for trial Wednesday. The five men will appear before a military judge for an arraignment within 30 days, said the Pentagon. They will be represented by military and civilian defense attorneys.

The men face charges of terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy and murder in violation of the law of war, among other charges. If convicted, they could be sentenced to death.

All five men were held in secret CIA “black sites” before they were transferred to the U.S. naval station in Cuba in 2006. Mohammed was repeatedly waterboarded, a technique that critics call torture, which has complicated efforts to prosecute him.

The five were first charged by the military in 2008 under the George W. Bush administration. But the case was suspended after President Barack Obama sought to try the men in federal court in New York City, and to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

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