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Defendants in 9/11 Attacks May Escape Death Penalty with Plea Negotiations, U.S. Tells Families

Some relatives of the nearly 3,000 outright victims of the attacks expressed anger over coming to an agreement without a verdict.

The defendants accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks may not face the death penalty with plea agreements being considered to end a legal battle that has lasted more than a decade, the FBI and Pentagon told some families of the thousands killed.

Several families received the notice in a letter, The Associated Press reported Wednesday, a year and a half after military prosecutors and defense attorneys began looking at a negotiated resolution to the case.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged architect of the attacks, and four co-defendants, have been detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Their prosecution has been plagued with delays and legal issues, especially concerning the ramifications of the CIA's use of torture during interrogations of the men.

A trial date has not been set.

"The Office of the Chief Prosecutor has been negotiating and is considering entering into pre-trial agreements," the letter stated. It also said that no plea agreement "has been finalized, and may never be finalized," but that a potential pre-trial agreement "would remove the possibility of the death penalty."

Some relatives of the nearly 3,000 outright victims of the attacks expressed anger over coming to an agreement without a verdict.

Military prosecutors said they would consider the family members' views and present them to officials who would make a final decision on whether to accept a plea deal.

Some relatives received the letter, dated Aug. 1, just this week. It asks them to respond to the FBI's Office of Victim Services by Monday with questions or comments about a possible plea deal.

On Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida militants seized control of passenger jets to hit the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon, while a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania after crew members and passengers attempted to stop the hijacking.

Mohammed had presented the idea of the attack on the U.S. to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, according to the United States 9/11 Commission.

In total, 2,977 people died directly from the 9/11 attacks, and thousands more were injured and suffered long-term health effects.

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