By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — Senate President David Williams wants two terrorism suspects arrested in Bowling Green to be tried at Guantanamo Bay, saying that the move would ensure the safety of Kentucky residents.
Williams comments come on the heels of a similar request made by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell, in a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, said the two men were plotting attacks on U.S. military forces and should therefore be moved to the military prison in Cuba. Holding a trial in Kentucky federal court could attract retaliatory actions by other terrorist groups, McConnell and others have said.
The U.S. Department of Justice has countered that the two men are accused of plotting attacks while they were in the United States. The best place to hold their trial is in the United States in federal criminal court. Hundreds of others have been convicted on federal terrorism charges in federal court. There have been no problems with those trial, justice officials have said.
In a statement released Wednesday night, Williams called on Gov. Steve Beshear and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, to join him in requesting that the two men be moved to the controversial Cuban base. Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 23, have been charged with a 23-count indictment alleging that they were conspiring to send weapons and money to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. They were arrested May 25 in Bowling Green after a two-year investigation.
“These terrorists have plotted against our soldiers and therefore deserve to be tried in a military court,” Williams said. “Furthermore, Kentucky tax-payers would be responsible for the terrific financial costs associated with a trial.”
Brian Wilkerson, a spokesman for Stumbo, said Stumbo supports moving the suspects to Guantanamo.
Beshear, however, stopped short of saying he would request that the two suspects be moved earlier on Thursday afternoon. Williams is running against Beshear in the November general election.
“My concern is with the safety and security of the people of Kentucky,” Beshear said. “I am reaching out to the federal authorities to let them know my concerns and to ensure that wherever they are held and however they are tried is not going to put Kentuckians at risk.”
But after Williams later Thursday, questioned if Beshear was not willing to stand up to President Obama’s administration and protect Kentuckians, Beshear clarified his earlier statement.
“Regarding the men in Bowling Green who are facing terror charges, I am fine with the federal government sending them to Guantanamo Bay,” Beshear said. “My main concern is to get them out of Kentucky.”