Brooklynites braced for the possibility of Guantánamo detainees being put on trial in the borough as Justice Department officials dismissed a New York Times story on the issue as “entirely speculative.”
The Times, citing unnamed people briefed on the matter, first reported that the Justice Department was considering the move to put some of the detainees on trial at the Eastern District Federal Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East.
The move comes after the Justice Department’s recent decision to put those charged with being behind the September 11 terrorist attack on trial at Manhattan’s Federal Courthouse.
Justice Department spokesperson Dean Boyd said both that agency and the Defense Department continue to review cases of Guantánamo Bay detainees referred for prosecution to determine whether individual cases will be tried in federal court or reformed military commissions.
“There have been no final forum or venue determinations made since the Nov. 13 announcement on the five accused 9/11 plotters to be tried in the Southern District of New York and the five other detainees to be tried in reformed military commissions,” Boyd said.
While the matter was not resolved at press time, it didn’t sit well with Brooklyn Heights resident Irene Janner.
“This is going to be a mess with undercover cars and vans all over the place,” said Janner, who lives in Cadman Towers just across Cadman Plaza Park from the federal courthouse.
“I don’t want it in my residential neighborhood where I have to pass barricades and metal detectors just to get into my apartment,” she added.
But Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Judy Stanton, whose organization expressed concerns about the citing of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, also in Downtown Brooklyn, appeared more ambivalent towards the matter.
“It’s not a decision that I’m equipped to make,” said Stanton.
Borough President Marty Markowitz also backed away from a definite opinion on the matter.
“This issue is in the hands of the NYPD and law enforcement,” said Markowitz.
Should Brooklyn try some of the Guantánamo detainees, questions would also arise where they would be held while on trial.
Currently in Manhattan’s federal lockup there is a tunnel leading directly to the federal courthouse.
There is a similar tunnel between the Brooklyn House of Detention on Atlantic Avenue and the city’s criminal courthouse.
But city Department of Corrections spokesperson Stephen Morello maintained that city jails do not hold those in federal custody.
“We have had no discussions with the federal government regarding this and have no plans for housing federal prisoners with criminal charges in city jails,” said Morello.
The federal government does operate the Metropolitan Detention Center on 29th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Sunset Park.
The NYPD did not return calls at press time to comment on any specialsecurity measures should any of these trials come to Brooklyn.