By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell heads to Bowling Green Friday to gather support to move two terrorism suspects out of the country, more Kentucky politicians are joining McConnell to ask that the two Iraqi nationals be tried somewhere else.
Todd P’Pool, a Republican running against Democrat Attorney General Jack Conway in the November general election, called for the terrorists to be moved to Guantanamo Bay, arguing that it was dangerous to hold a civilian federal trial on Kentucky soil.
“Terrorists should be tried as enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, not here in Kentucky,” P’Pool said in a written release.
P’Pool campaign also called on Conway on Friday to clarify his position on where the two Iraqi-born residents arrested last month in Bowling Green on terrorism-related charges should be tried.
Conway’s camp said that the issue was a federal one, but Conway supports trying terrorism suspects in military courts.
“This matter is being handled by the U.S. Department of Justice, not the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office,” said Melissa Wideman, of Conway’s campaign. “And for the record, Jack Conway believes terrorists should be tried in military tribunals, not civilian courts.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has argued that the two men should be tried in federal civilian court, which has worked well in hundreds of other terrorism-related trials since Sept. 11.
Holder said there is no more powerful tool than the civilian court system in disrupting potential attacks and effectively interrogating, prosecuting and incarcerating terrorists.
“Despite this reality, we continue to see overheated rhetoric that is detached from history — and from the facts,” Holder said on Thursday. “We see crucial national security tools, once again, being put at risk by those who disparage the American criminal justice system, and misguidedly claim that terror suspects cannot be tried safely in our civilian courts.”
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, Senate President David Williams, Beshear’s Republican opponent in the November general election, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo have all said that they support moving the suspects to Guantanamo Bay. Beshear said that it was up to the federal government to make that decision.
Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 23, were arrested in Bowling Green on May 25. They face charges that they plotted to send money and weapons to Iraq to be used against U.S. troops. They have pleaded not guilty and face life in prison if convicted.
McConnell is scheduled to speak to local officials in Bowling Green on Friday about the two suspects.