Trump repeats death penalty call for NYC terrorist

This article is more than 12 months old

NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump reiterated his call on Thursday for the death penalty for the Uzbek immigrant accused of killing eight people by driving a truck down a popular Manhattan bike path, the deadliest act of suspected terrorism to strike New York City since Sept 11, 2001.

Sayfullo Saipov, 29, was charged in federal court on Wednesday with acting in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militant group by ploughing the truck down a riverside bike trail, injuring a dozen people in addition to those killed.

Mr Trump had suggested on Wednesday sending Saipov to the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, where terrorism suspects apprehended overseas are incarcerated, but he said on Thursday that doing so would be too complicated.

"Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but, statistically, that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system," he said on Twitter.

"There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY."

Mr Trump also repeated his call on Thursday for Congress to end the Diversity Immigrant Visa programme under which Saipov entered the US in 2010, saying on Twitter: "We need to make AMERICA SAFE."

His tweets calling for the death penalty before Saipov even had a chance to enter a plea to the charges he faces could work to the defendant's advantage by giving his lawyers a chance to argue that the president prejudiced potential jurors.

"The defence is sure to raise this as unfair and raising questions about a jury being able to reach an impartial verdict," said Mr James Acker, a criminal justice professor at the State University of New York in Albany who specialises in capital punishment.

It could be used to make an argument that a judge should not allow the death penalty as a sentencing option, Mr Acker said, adding that "the likelihood of that succeeding is very small." 

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