Fordham Law

Guilty Verdict Returned in Trial of bin Laden's Son-in-Law

Karen Greenberg in NY1, March 26, 2014

Media Source

It took a Manhattan jury less than six hours to find Osama bin Laden's son-in-law guilty of plotting to kill more Americans after the September 11th attacks, but this case may not be over. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

After the jury said he was guilty of conspiring to kill Americans, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith quietly turned to a longtime friend from Kuwait who traveled here for the trial and smiled.

"He remains a man who is comfortable with himself, what he did and why," said defense attorney Stanley Cohen. "He's a man of character and integrity and principle."

The day after the September 11th attacks, Abu Ghaith praised them in a video while sitting by Osama bin Laden, who later became his father-in-law. In other recordings, Abu Ghaith said that the storm of planes would continue.

Federal prosecutors argued that Abu Ghaith was al-Qaida's spokesman. They said that his role was to recruit Muslims to kill Americans.

Defense attorneys said he was not involved in any plot.

"This is just the beginning of the fight on appeal," said defense attorney Zoe Dolan. "There are numerous legal issues that the defense will pursue on appeal vigorously."

The U.S. attorney's office said that Abu Ghaith received a fair trial.

"We hope this verdict brings some small measure of comfort to the families of the victims of al Qaeda's murderous designs," Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

Prosecution witnesses included FBI agents and convicted terrorists. Abu Ghaith's defense team said that it was hindered from asking them certain questions because of classified information.

"We couldn't use information to impeach them and to challenge them because they're covered in a shroud of secrecy," Cohen said.

Karen Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School. She said this case does illustrate that high-profile terror trials can be held in civilian courts and not necessarily in secretive military hearings. In addition, Abu Ghaith spoke in his own defense.

"I thought it was rather effective to have him take the stand, and in a very quiet, mild-mannered way, explain who he was and who he had been at that time," Greenberg said.

Abu Ghaith could be sent to prison for the rest of his life. He will be sentenced on September 8.