On Thursday, using statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, the human rights organization Human Rights First, released a report that mentioned that at least 494 individuals have so far been convicted in 60 different federal courts in 37 states since the Sept. 11 attacks. The group obtained the information from the Justice Department by a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The statistics was confirmed by a DOJ spokesman who declined to comment further to the media.
Federal prosecutors group terrorism-related convictions into two categories. Category I deals with violations of federal statutes directly related to international terrorism, while Category II includes charges that involve an identified link to international terrorism. Out of the 494 convicts, about 220 defendants were in Category I, and the rest under Category II.
Though critics hold that military commissions should try the terrorism-related cases because of potential security threats to civilians and courthouses, the report says the finding show that federal civilian courts have been able to keep up a record of safely trying the cases.
However, in one high-profile case involving accused Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused and co-conspirators were taken to a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, after lawmakers expressed their concern over the cost of providing $1 billion for securing lower Manhattan.
According to the report, Brooklyn and Long Island had the highest number of convictions, while Eastern District of Michigan and the Southern District of New York followed closely. Eastern District of Virginia had 35 convictions while the Southern District of Florida convicted 28 terror-related accused.
However, the organization says that the obtained data does not indicate the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, but it only indicates that civil courts are competent to hold the trials.