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Holder raises question on 9/11 death penalty

world Updated: Jul 11, 2010 23:16 IST

US Attorney General Eric Holder today raised question if the trial by military courts would result in death penalty of 9/11 terror suspects and favoured their sentencing by a civilian court.

"You can certainly seek the death penalty. There is a real question as to whether or not somebody can plead guilty and get the death penalty on the military side. You can certainly do that in a civilian setting," Holder told the CBS News in an interview.

"In a military tribunal, right. There's a real question about that," he said.

"Why can't we use a great criminal justice system that has proven effective in these kinds of cases over the years, that has proven effective in a wide range of cases over the last 200 years, why can't we use that system? It is that system that we have often said distinguishes us from other countries, one that I am extremely proud of, and one that I think is extremely capable of," Holder said.

"We have tried over 300 terrorists in our criminal justice system. We have gotten very long sentences where that was appropriate. That have been a really limited number of people who have been tried in the military tribunals, which is not to say that they should not be used, but at the exclusion, I think if we try to exclude the federal criminal justice system, we are taking away one of the tools that we have and I think, ultimately, we make this nation much weaker," he said.

That's a very dangerous thing, I think, to take to tool out of our hands, Holder said.

The Attorney General said it is particularly bothersome to him is that this really has become something that has become political.

The politicisation of this issue when we are dealing with ultimate national security issues is something that disturbs me a great deal, he said.

"We are dealing with the deaths of 3,000 people on September the 11th. We're dealing with the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, the person who was a key part of Al Qaeda. And to have Republicans and Democrats arguing about this in a political way as opposed to dealing with the substance that we have to really focus on is something that I think is regrettable and has resulted, I think, in the delays that we have seen," Holder said.