The nephew of the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks does not deserve the death penalty, his attorneys argue in court documents filed Friday.
Pakistani Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, 34, is accused of helping to plot the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.
Aziz Ali is accused of sending money in 2000 to some of the Sept. 11 hijackers and providing other logistical help as they passed through the United Arab Emirates.
He is imprisoned at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, where he is approaching a trial before a military court.
However, James Connell, one of his attorneys, told AFP that Aziz Ali played a “relatively minor role in the conspiracy” that “would not justify the death penalty under the U.S. standards.”
Aziz Ali, also known as Amar al-Baluchi, is the nephew of alleged September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a cousin of Ramzi Yousef, who set a bomb that detonated in the basement of the World Trade Center in 1993.
The lawyers argue in their motion that the U.S. has typically reserved the death penalty in terrorism cases to defendants who are accused of planning an attack or being a direct participant.
They also note the military has filed non-capital charges, which bring a maximum sentence of life in prison, this week against Majid Khan, a prisoner at Guantanamo who is accused of having a more substantial role in terrorist plots than their client.
“There are strict rules in the U.S. to whom the death penalty can apply,” Connell said. “It only can apply to people who were either masterminds of plots or actually carried out a killing, and our argument is Mr. al-Baluchi doesn’t fall in either of those categories so he’s not eligible for the death penalty, even under military law.”
Aziz Ali is accused of following his uncle’s orders to repeatedly send funds to the September 11 terrorists to help them pay for their flying lessons in the United States.
He allegedly tried to join them but his application for an entry visa into the United States was rejected in August 2001.
Five other accused September 11 conspirators await military trials. Guantanamo detainees who face possible death penalties include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, his nephew and three other prisoners.
The Defense Department legal official overseeing Aziz Ali’s case has not yet decided whether charges against him will be capital or non-capital.
“Logistical co-conspirators in acts of terrorism like the Oklahoma City bombing and East Africa bombings have been sentenced to life without the possibility of release,” the court documents from Aziz Ali’s attorneys said.
No date has been set for Aziz Ali’s military trial.