A would-be British shoe bomber can give evidence by video link at the New York City terror trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and former spokesman, a judge has ruled.
The evidence will be used at next month's trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who denies conspiring to kill Americans in his role as al Qaida's spokesman after the September 11 2001 attacks. If convicted he could face life in prison.
The identity of the man the US government planned to call as a witness through a video link was not disclosed in court papers, but the description fits Saajid Badat, 34, whose videotaped evidence was shown at the 2012 trial of a man convicted of a foiled plot to attack the New York City tube system in 2009.
Badat was convicted in London of a 2001 plot to down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes. He said at that trial that he refused a request to give evidence in person in the US because he remained under indictment in Boston on charges of conspiring with failed shoe bomber Richard Reid and had been told he would be arrested if he set foot in the United States.
Likewise, the co-operating witness in the Abu Ghaith case was indicted in Boston in the shoe bomb plot and has been told he will be arrested if he travels to the United States, US district judge Lewis Kaplan noted in his written opinion.
The judge said the man's evidence was relevant to the charges against Abu Ghaith because he was involved in a post-September 11 plot to bomb planes in the United States at about the same time that Abu Ghaith appeared in videos threatening that "the storm of the airplanes will not stop" and advising Muslims in America and Britain to stay off aircraft.
"That this plot existed at approximately the same time that Abu Ghaith appeared in videotapes making statements threatening that exact type of attack on the United States tends to show that Abu Ghaith knowingly participated in al Qaida's conspiracy to kill Americans," Judge Kaplan said.
The judge also said defence lawyers can obtain a videotaped deposition from Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a man in Yemen who is believed to have been bin Laden's driver from 1998 until November 2001.
He said Hamdan, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, can participate in a videotaped deposition at the request of defence lawyers who said Hamdan refuses to travel to the United States and most likely would not be permitted in the country anyway.
Defence lawyers have said Hamdan would say he never saw Abu Ghaith with an al Qaida card that contains coded names and locations of some individuals. They have said he also would say that the cards contained the names of car mechanics and others of no particular importance or consequence, including visitors passing through the Kandahar, Afghanistan community.
The judge said defence and government lawyers can each question Hamdan for three hours, though he limited topics to the cards, the purpose of al Qaida training camps that Abu Ghaith visited and opinions regarding Abu Ghaith's role in al Qaida.