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Gitmo prisoner matched to Pearl murder video faces military trial

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been held for years at Guatanamo Bay prison, where he admitted to killing Daniel Pearl.

Spc. Cody Black/U.S. Army

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of Sept. 11, 2001 whose distinctive hand was identified in a video showing the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl, will be tried in a military court at the Guantanamo Bay detention center for the 9/11 attacks, U.S. officials said today.

The Center for Public Integrity in January published the findings of The Pearl Project, a three-year investigation into the story behind the Wall Street Journal reporter’s 2002 abduction and death in Karachi, Pakistan.

Mohammed confessed to Pearl’s murder during repeated waterboarding interrogations. Doubts about his confession were largely erased when FBI and CIA officials used vascular technology to match a bulging vein in Mohammed’s hand to the hand of Pearl’s killer visible in a video taken of the murder, according to the Pearl Project. However, Mohammed has not been charged with Pearl’s murder because U.S. officials do not want to complicate plans to prosecute him for the 9/11 attacks.

U.S. Attorney Eric Holder announced that Mohammed and four others suspected of planning 9/11 attacks would be tried in military court at Guantanamo rather than in federal court because legislation passed last year blocks the transport of prisoners from the U.S. military base in Cuba to the U.S. mainland. “The administration worked with Congress to substantially reform military commissions in 2009, and I believe they can deliver fair trials and just verdicts,” Holder said in defending his decision.

President Barack Obama previously said he wanted the men tried in federal court in New York, a plan that was criticized by local residents and by Republicans because it would give the men full U.S. legal rights.