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Biden declines to grant conditions 9/11 defendants were seeking in plea negotiations

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will not approve conditions proposed by lawyers for 9/11 criminal defendants who are seeking a plea agreement, a National Security Council spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.

The rejected terms included a presidential guarantee that the five men would be spared solitary confinement and provided care for the trauma of their torture in CIA custody.

“The President concurred with the Secretary of Defense’s recommendation not to accept the Joint Policy Principles that had been proposed by the 9-11 defendants as a basis for plea negotiations,” the NSC spokesperson wrote to NBC News.

Biden’s refusal on the plea agreement guarantees leaves it to military prosecutors and defense lawyers to try to hash out an agreement.

The terms still under discussion would have the five detainees at at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, plead guilty and serve life sentences in exchange for being spared the death penalty.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks targeting the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., as well as those aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

Lawyers for the five defendants have been exploring a negotiated resolution to the case for about 1½ years.

Biden did not feel it was appropriate to accept the “joint policy principles” as a basis for a pretrial agreement in what were the deadliest attacks on U.S. soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941, the National Security Council official said.

The five defendants include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged architect of the attacks waged by hijacked commercial jetliners.

Attorneys representing Mohammed did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment late Wednesday.

Pretrial hearings for the five defendants have been underway at the U.S. military commission at Guantánamo Bay for more than a decade, with no trial date set.

The Office of Military Commissions website shows the criminal case against Mohammed and others, and documents were filed Wednesday, but they were not available for viewing online pending a security review.

Brett Eagleson, whose father was killed in the 2001 attacks, welcomed the administration’s decision.

“We look forward to the day that we can praise our government for finally giving us justice and holding all parties involved in the attacks accountable,” he said in a statement.

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