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Homeland Security

Trump: NYC Attacker Should Get Death Penalty or Guantanamo

By Peter Heinlein November 02, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump is calling for swift justice in the case of accused New York City truck terrorist Sayfullo Saipov, including the death penalty.

In response to questions from reporters Wednesday, Trump said he would be open to transferring the 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant from the civilian justice system to the military system at Guantanamo. "Send him to Gitmo, I would certainly consider that, yes," he said.

The president said Thursday on Twitter that he "would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer" than handling his trial through the U.S. court system.

The president said he would prefer that Saipov be tried in the U.S. court system because, if convicted, the defendant could be sentenced to death.

Other senior Republicans, including Trump's attorney general, appeared to differ with the president on handling the Saipov case.

All lawful tools

In a speech Thursday to a conference in New York City on defending national security, Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not rule out the option of declaring Saipov an enemy combatant.

"Terrorists should know: This administration will use all lawful tools at our disposal, including prosecution in Article III [federal] courts and at Guantanamo Bay," Sessions said.

"If anyone has any doubt about that, they can ask the more than 500 criminals whom the Department of Justice has convicted of terrorism-related offenses since 9/11. And they can ask the dozens of enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay."

A leading Republican senator, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, issued a statement ridiculing the idea of prosecuting the case in federal court.

"It appears the Trump administration is continuing the Obama policy of criminalizing the War on Terror by not declaring Sayfullo Saipov an enemy combatant," Graham said.

The senator argued that trying Saipov in federal courts would severely limit the ability of investigators to glean valuable intelligence that could "help win the war." He added, "The Trump administration missed an important opportunity to send a strong message to terrorists and make America safer."

Appearing to mimic Trump's Twitter style, Graham ended his statement by saying, "This is a huge mistake. Very sad."

Law enforcement officials noted that Saipov's method of using a rented truck was similar to IS-inspired vehicle attacks in other Western countries in recent years. New America, a nonpartisan research center, said 15 vehicular attacks have been carried out since 2014, killing more than 140 people.

Uzbekistan's president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, said Wednesday the attack was ruthless and cruel, and that his government stood ready to use all means to assist in the investigation.

With the New York City Marathon due to attract more than 50,000 runners and many hundreds of thousands of spectators this Sunday, the New York Police Department said it would increase the number of officers throughout the city "out of an abundance of caution."

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