Lawmakers disagree on where to hold trial of Bowling Green terrorists [The Arena]

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One of Kentucky’s Republican Senators wants the trial of two suspected terrorists held at the military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The other Senator would prefer the trial be held in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where the Iraqi nationals were captured last month.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was in Bowling Green on Friday at a press conference with local officials, where he said, "Maybe I'll find somebody in Warren County who thinks it's a good idea to try these foreign terrorists here, but I haven't run into them yet."  McConnell wants Waad Alwan and Mohanad Hammadi tried at Gitmo rather than in a civilian court in Kentucky.

But Kentucky’s junior Republican Senator, Rand Paul, of Bowling Green, said Thursday that he thinks “…the federal courts probably can take care of them much more swiftly than Guantanamo and actually give them very lengthy sentences if they are found guilty.”

Alwan and Hammadi are being held in jail on 23 charges of terrorism and conspiring to kill U.S. nationals abroad; for allegedly planting a roadside bomb in Iraq. If convicted, they face life in prison.

A number of other Kentucky politicians have also expressed views on the topic:

  • Incumbent Governor and gubernatorial candidate Steve Beshear says the trials should be held at Guantanamo.
  • Republican gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky state Senate President David Williams agrees on the Gitmo venue.
  • Fifth District Republican U.S. Representative Hal Rogers said in a statement that the “administration needs to get this right and honor those who have served under our flag by sending Hammadi and Alwan to Cuba."
  • Second District Republican U.S. Representative Brett Guthrie, said in a press release that after consulting with “intelligence and law enforcement officials in Washington,” he favors the trial being at Gitmo.  “Our top priority must be to protect Kentucky citizens,” he said.
  • Warren County Judge Executive Mike Buchanon said, "The only thing I hear from citizens locally is they would like to see this tried elsewhere." 

But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday night that lawmakers in Congress are endangering the war on terror by their efforts to force terrorism suspects into military commissions instead of trying them in civilian courts.  “I am determined to defeat our enemies,” Holder said in a speech to the American Constitution Society. “But victory and security will not come easily. And they won’t come at all if we adhere to a rigid ideology, adopt a narrow methodology, or abandon our most effective terror-fighting weapon — our Article Three [civilian] court system.”

“Politics has no place — no place — in the impartial and effective administration of justice,” said Holder.  “Decisions about how, where, and when to prosecute must be made by prosecutors, not politicians. This is true for every case, whether it involves or white collar criminals or brutal terrorists,” he added.

"Before this ill-advised decision to try these foreign terrorists in Bowling Green," McConnell said on Friday, "I am fairly safe in saying there is probably not a terrorist in the world who could find Bowling Green, Kentucky on a map-they know where it is now." 

On Tuesday, in a speech on the U.S. Senate floor, Sen. McConnell said:  “There is wide, bipartisan opposition to giving the rights of U.S. citizens to men who tried to kill our troops on the battlefield.  Get these men out of Kentucky. ... Send them to Guantanamo where they belong. Get these terrorists out of the civilian (court) system — and out of our backyards. And give them the justice they deserve.”

WAVE-3’s Elizabeth Donatelli reports:

About Thomas McAdam
At various times I have been a student, a soldier, a college Political Science teacher, a political campaign treasurer, and legal adviser to Louisville's Police Department and Board of Aldermen. I now practice law and share my political opinions with anyone who will listen.
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