Bin Laden's son-in-law on trial over 9/11 attacks
Published 06/03/2014 | 02:30
IN a federal courtroom high above Lower Manhattan, with a view of the gleaming new World Trade Centre, the first trial of a high-ranking al-Qa'ida figure on charges related to the September 11 attacks has finally begun.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, is accused of conspiracy to kill Americans and supporting terrorism by delivering al-Qa'ida's "murderous decrees" as the group's chief propagandist.
Thirteen years after hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, prosecutors took the jury straight back to the hours following the attacks as they opened their case. They displayed a still from a video filmed on Sept 12, 2001, showing Abu Ghaith sitting cross-legged next to bin Laden outside a cave in Afghanistan.
"Literally moments after the attacks of Sept 11, Osama bin Laden turned to this man," said Nicholas Lewin, assistant US attorney, pointing at Abu Ghaith. "Osama bin Laden asked that man to deliver al-Qa'ida's murderous decree to the entire world.
He needed the world to know his organisation was responsible and to rally his troops. He turned to a man he already trusted. He asked the defendant to help al-Qa'ida go a step further by inciting others to fight and kill. The defendant answered the call. His job was to provide al-Qa'ida with its lifeblood, young men inspired to fight and die."
Mr Lewin said that in October 2001, Abu Ghaith, who was later to marry Bin Laden's eldest daughter, Fatima, delivered a "chilling and very real threat" when he declared that the "storm of airplanes will not abate". Mr Lewin said this was a reference to the failed shoe bomb plot two months later.
Abu Ghaith, who has pleaded not guilty, cut a very different figure in court from the charismatic imam who appeared next to bin Laden in a turban and camouflage vest, an AK-47 propped up nearby. He looked older than his 48 years, balding and his beard grey, as he listened to a translation. He spoke only when the judged asked him if he understood. Stanley Cohen, defending, said the prosecution was "substituting fright for evidence" and urged the jury not to be "swept away by anger and hate". He described his client as "an ideologue" but said that he was not guilty of the crimes of which he is accused.
Abu Ghaith was brought to New York last year after he was captured in Jordan. If convicted, he could be jailed for life.
For US President Barack Obama, the stakes are high as his officials seek to prove they can prosecute terror cases in civilian courts. Republicans criticised the decision not to send Abu Ghaith to Guantanamo Bay. The case continues. (© The Daily Telegraph)