Skip to main content

Father of firefighter awaits trial of alleged 9/11 plotters

By Susan Candiotti, CNN
updated 9:36 PM EDT, Wed April 4, 2012
Retired FDNY deputy chief Jim Riches attends a memorial event in September 2011.
Retired FDNY deputy chief Jim Riches attends a memorial event in September 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jim Riches lost his son Jimmy -- a New York firefighter -- on September 11, 2001
  • Riches is among the victims' relatives notified that terrorism charges were refiled
  • Charged are accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others
  • If convicted, the men could face the death penalty

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Jim Riches, who lost his son Jimmy -- a New York firefighter -- on September 11, 2001, seems cautiously optimistic that the men again charged in the deadly attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people will finally go to trial.

"Eleven years later and the families are still awaiting justice," he told CNN. "Hopefully, the trial will move forward. Let the world see what these men are like."

Riches is among the victims' relatives notified that terrorism charges were refiled Wednesday against accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh and three others. If convicted, the men could face the death penalty.

They were first charged in 2008, but their cases were suspended when the Obama administration attempted to move the case to federal court in New York, only to run into a political firestorm.

In 2009, Riches made a trip to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the defendants are being held, in an effort to watch and hear them speak before a military commission.

"I am the mastermind of 9/11, not Osama bin Laden," Mohammed told the presiding judge. "We don't care about capital punishment or a life sentence. We are doing jihad for the cause of God."

Riches said Mohammed seemed proud.

Riches said he would like to attend a new trial, but isn't sure whether his name will be chosen since other families who haven't been to the naval base will be asked to attend.

"Some families might not want to go. Seeing these evil men isn't easy," he said. "It's very hard to listen to them."

But he said that while he's skeptical, he's also hopeful that this time a trial will take place.

President Barack Obama, who has yet to make good on a pledge to close the detention camp, earned congressional scorn after vowing to move high-level detainees to stand trial in civilian courts.

The move was followed by an outcry fueled mainly by conservatives who claimed that it would be an unnecessary security risk to move terror suspects from the island facility.

The Obama administration countered that federal prosecutions had a record of success, including convictions and life sentences for so-called shoe bomber Richard Reid, confessed al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui and blind Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for inspiring the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and for a thwarted plot to attack other New York locations.

"Politics had a lot to do with this," Riches said. "The victims of 9/11 are being victimized all over again because of this. And now, we're back to where we were four years ago. Politicians should be ashamed of themselves."

He says families have waited too long to see the 9/11 alleged conspirators stand trial.

"For me, I can't wait for the day justice is served on them," he added. "I want the world to see it."

Riches said the government has already asked him whether he'd be willing to face Mohammed and his co-defendants in court and make a victim impact statement.

"Of course," he said. But, "It doesn't change anything because (his son) won't come walking back into the room."

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT